Friday, September 11, 2015

The Signal

If science fiction movies had hearts, then the heart of every science fiction movie would yearn to be Star Wars.  What makes Star Wars great is that takes us to another world full of wonderful things.  The trouble with low budget science fiction movies is that there may be something wonderful in the movie, but it might occur briefly at the end of the film after the audience has endured a really long build up.  This is the problem with "The Signal".

For example, the first 15 minutes of the movie is about three MIT students crossing the country.  There is a story here about relationships, but more importantly, someone is hacking into their laptops.  The students trace "the signal" to someplace in Nevada, so they are determined to go there and investigate.  When they get there, they find a creepy shack in the middle of the desert.  Then, jarringly, at least one of them appears to be abducted by aliens from another world.  Then our heroes wake up in an underground hospital/bunker where people are asking them questions and doing experiments on them.

Where the movie succeeds is that it creates a level of suspense of not knowing what is going to happen next.  The characters don't know what is happening to them, and we don't know anything more than the characters do.  What we sense is that this is leading to something; we only hope that it is something good.  So I like the movie for the suspense that it creates.  (In this respect, the movie is a clever exercise in low budget filmmaking.)

There is also much misdirection, since the whole film seems designed to conceal the ending from us so as to keep it a surprise.  However, for me this made the ending a little less logical.  When we do get the pay off at the end, the final scene goes by so quickly that I had to watch it again to understand it, and even then I had to do an internet search to confirm that I understood what I saw.  Had I seen this in the movie theater, as opposed to video, I might have been confused and disappointed.

Movies like this end with something wonderful, which is where movies like Star Wars start.  It would be nice to see where the ending takes us, but no, the movie just ends.

So that is the problem with low budget science fiction movies.  I think that this one is well worth watching because it really does create an interesting and suspenseful story.

Rating:  * * *

The Signal has only a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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