Movie Review: The Signal

I know it’s a few years old, but I finally had the chance to watch “The Signal”. I wish I had something snappy to say about it, some sort of catch phrase or zinger that would encapsulate this movie in a single line, but that requires energy, and I just don’t have it after being let down by the last 2/3 of the movie.  Was that because they used a different director for each ‘act’, or 1/3 of the movie, or was it because the set up was just more fun to film?

In brief (ha!), “The Signal” is about people going insane after engaging with any sort of media device that transmits, like a cell phone, TV, or radio.  The setup is fantastic, though much slower than, say, Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead”.  Our protagonist, Mya, manages to escape the insanity personally, though she encounters the effects on the road and at home.  After surviving the night by escaping from her killer husband, she hooks up (pre-90’s version) with a friend and tries to escape, only to have things go tragically wrong.  After finding herself alone again, Mys slips on her headphones to avoid the harmful effects of the signal, though we never see her working out the fact that there’s something wrong in the air, and she walks away determindly.

From there on, the story devolves into a cross between black comedy and soft-core torture porn for the second act and just plan boring for the final act.  The constant flashes our antagonist, Lewis (Mya’s now-insane husband) goes through are incredibly annoying and stretch credulity of the accepted framework of the movie.  I mean, we understand that he’s insane, but when did insane people become invincible?  This guy seems to be unkillable in a world where everyone else is dropping like flies.  The ending of the movie is ambiguous, again sort of like Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead”, but by that point, I was just waiting for it to be over.  The resolution between Mya’s boyfriend (Ben) and Lewis was flat-out pathetic; considering just how insanely driven Lewis was the entire movie (even before he went signal-happy), I just couldn’t believe how Ben talked him into…well…the end.

This movie could have gone tons of different places that would have been way more interesting to me and, I’m guessing, the general movie public.  Cutting the second act and replacing it with just about anything else might have done wonders to rescue the movie, but only if the third act was completely reworked as a consequence.  Keep the general principle of people-trying-to-escape-in-a-world-gone-mad…I love that…but don’t make it that plus following a single crazy guy whom we the audience don’t give a shit about.

Final word: if you like psychological horror, check out “The Signal”, but stop when the second act begins.  Make up the next 50 minutes on your own and you’ll have a better movie.

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