The Signal (2014)

movie:
William Eubank
Version:
movie

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On July 5, 2014
Last modified:July 5, 2014

Summary:

Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 37 min.

Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 5; Language 7; Sex/Nudity 1.

Our star rating (0-5): 3.5

 My heart is in anguish within me,    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Psalm 55:4

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Even on their trip Nic & Jonah have to deal with a hacker watching them everywhere. (c) 2014 Focus Features

 Starting out as a road trip film director William Eubank’s film morphs into something like The Blair Witch Project and then into a sci-fi tale of alien visitation that reminded me of the recent Under the Skin. Nic (Brenton Thwaites); his girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke); and his best buddy, Jonah (Beau Knapp) are on their way to the West Coat to deposit Haley. The guys are preoccupied by a hacker calling himself Nomad who is spying on them using their own computer equipment. Haley is a bit concerned that Nic has not said much about their coming separation.

While staying at a motel Nomad contacts them and challenges them to track him down. Jonah thinks he has the hacker located in the middle of a Nevada desert. They discuss whether they should press on and drop Haley off, or leave the main road before they reach their destination. They decide to go ahead and bring her along. Bad choice. That night they manage to find a dilapidated shack at the end of a dirt trail. The guys decide to go in with their flashlights and leave Haley in the car. An even worse choice, as they would know had they watched even one sci-fi or horror show. Inside, in the basement they do find some servers, but nothing else. Haley screams outside. They rush up the stairs. She is gone.

Nic wakes up on a gurney. He is totally disoriented. An orderly in what looks like a space suit is pushing him along. There follows a series of events that grow more and more puzzling. Everyone in the gleaming white establishment wears the strange suits with oxygen tanks hooked up on the back. A Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne), also in a suit, tries to interrogate Nic, starting up an archaic mini-tape recorder just before his first quest ion. Nic wants his own questions answered, but the doc is not very forthcoming, other than to reveal that Haley, of whom Nic has caught a brief glimpse, is in a coma, and that the staff wear their gear because the three might be victims of EBE, Extra-terrestrial Biological Entity. Matters grow more and more weird as Nic, refusing to cooperate with his mysterious interrogator, attempts to escape.

The chase sequence is exciting and bloody, ending with a courageous sacrifice and Nic at last realizing his situation. The last is a cosmically beautiful scene, though many of the questions raised by past events are unresolved. Filmmaker William Eubank and his co-writers, Carlyle Euband and David Frigerio, apparently want viewers to figure out things for themselves, something rare in any filmmaker with his eye set on box office receipts. That could be why you will have to search for a theater showing this intriguing tale. Their view of the universe is definitely not the friendly on of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. or Close Encounters!

A set of 4 discussion questions are included with the review in the July 2014 issue of Visual Parables. Go to The Store to buy a single copy or to subscribe for the year.

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