Signal, The (DVD)

The Signal DVD review!Reviewed by Buz “Danger” Wallick

Starring AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn, Scott Polythress

Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry

Released by Magnet

Would it be too lame of a pun to say that I’m crazy for The Signal? Fuck it. The Signal is by far one of the best independent horror films ever made and the best horror film I’ve seen all year. Not only does it have an original story, but it also boasts a phenomenal cast and three up-and-coming directors.

The story follows three different characters, Maya, Ben, and Lewis (easily the best character, played by AJ Bowen), during what you could call the end of the world. Shortly after we are introduced to the main players, every electronic device in the city of Terminus begins to emit a strange signal that makes one out of every two people go crazy and start killing people. The film follows our characters in their struggle to find each other, avoid the signal, and fight off everyone else. There are three distinct acts, or Transmissions as they are called, each with its own directo.

The best way to describe The Signal is to imagine Pulp Fiction got loaded up on cocaine one evening and decided to go jogging. While on its jog, it came across a wandering 28 Days Later. Being that 28 Days Later was alone, Pulp Fiction decided to rape it. The bastard child that came out of that situation is, and I say this with most affection, The Signal. Brilliant writing, outstanding cinematography, excellent actors, and a fantastic score; The Signal is an all-around amazing movie.

The Signal DVD review!Thankfully, the DVD gods smiled upon us and have presented one of the best damn DVD packages anyone could ask for. The first feature is called “Signal Breakdown” and is pretty much a talking heads puff documentary that is about five minutes long. More or less this is just your usual making-of with interviews with cast and crew talking about their movie. However, unlike most, these extras also provide a second making-of called “Inside Terminus” that goes into the specifics of what these guys did to make their film. Running about 15 minutes long, this is a must see for any aspiring filmmaker because it gives a lot of great advice on how to pull off effects with a very limited budget.

Along with the two making-ofs, there is a great commentary with the three directors, David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush. However, there is a twist; whenever a director’s Transmission begins to play, he leaves the room, and the other two do the commentary for that section. It’s an unusual concept that works fairly well. Plus, the directors are funny as hell. I only wish we could have had a commentary from AJ Bowen and Scott Poythress, who are also very funny guys. Plus it could have been called the Lewis and Clark commentary…

The DVD also includes the full short film that opens the film, “The Hap Hapgood Story”, directed by Jacob Gentry. It’s an interesting little short about a guy who tortures and kills some chicks because he’s sexually repressed. What you don’t catch in the feature film is that it stars Scott Poythress, Clark, as the sexually repressed killer. It’s a fun little short, especially since it was made in only 48 hours.

The Signal DVD review!In the vein of short films, the DVD includes three Transmission webisodes. These are basically your answer to what was going on in and around Terminus during the film’s events. There’s “Transmission 14: Technical Difficulties”, which is a window into what if the signal were to suddenly hit a late night talk show scenario; “Transmission 23: The Return” is what would happen if the signal hit in a Best Buy type store; and “Transmission 37: Crosstown Traffic” is a small story of a family traveling in a car trying to get home while listening to the radio, right as the signal hits. All the other special features aside, the “Transmissions” are worth the DVD alone.

But wait, there’s more! We also get the theatrical trailer, a few deleted scenes with introductions (which includes a hilarious deleted scene with a jousting child on a bike with a broomstick), and the signal itself. As in you can subject yourself to the actual signal and see how long it takes you before you have to shut it off. I only lasted about five minutes before I killed one of my roommates with my laptop and a bowl of tapioca.

The Signal DVD is definitely something I think any horror fan and independent filmmaker should own. Not only is it a brilliant movie, but it also has a great set of special features that are essential for any aspiring filmmaker.

Special Features

  • Commentary by The Signal directors
  • Signal Breakdown”
  • “Inside Terminus”
  • “The Hap Hapgood Story” short film
  • “Transmission” webisodes
  • Deleted scenes
  • The Signal
  • Trailers


    5 out of 5

    Special Features

    5 out of 5

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  • Buz Wallick

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    • feliduca

      Independent horror films have always held a certain charm to me. I like horror films that have no multi-million dollar Studio behind it. Because in independent films, the creative team usually have all the creative control. THE SIGNAL (2007) is a nice piece of an independent horror film, it sets out exactly what it means to do and it brought out strong performances from its cast. This film is a collaboration between three directors and writers: David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry, and yes, these three even made some minor cameo appearances. (as screaming men)

      Synopsis partly derived from the dvd back cover:
      It’s New year’s eve in the city of Terminus (The name of the city itself is quite foreboding) and chaos is this year’s resolution. All forms of communication, phones, television and radio have been jammed by a mysterious transmission that preys on fear and desire, paranoia and delusion, that drives the city’s population to wanton acts of murder and madness. The collapse of civilization is at hand…

      The film is divided into three acts or as the film calls them “transmissions”. Act one is directed by David Bruckner and explores Mya’s situation (Anessa Ramsey) The beginning credits looks like an ode to older B-movies and very reminiscent to a 70’s horror film. Then you see the “signal”.

      Transmission One: Mya is cheating on her husband with Ben (Justin Welborn) and while her relationship with her husband Lewis (AJ Bowen) is left to the viewer as being a rocky one, it all serves as a set up for the film’s violence. It’s a slow build up but very effective. It was quite unnerving to see normal people just suddenly go berserk and the saner ones are caught in all the madness. Just who are the homicidal maniacs and which ones are only defending themselves?

      Transmission Two is directed by Jacob Gentry and goes into a very different tone. The second act may seem a little silly because of its satirical undertones but works well enough to give the “madness” some needed (ahem) character development. The supporting characters are introduced and Clark (Scott Poythress) has his own theories as to what the signal is. There are several accusing fingers pointed at the media’s theorized “subliminal” messages.

      Transmission three is the film’s final resolution and is directed by (you guessed it) Dan Bush. Hallucinations, lost of mental control take center stage as Clark and Ben tries to find Mya and escape the city, with Lewis hot on their trail .

      The film has a lot of personality and does serve up an abundance of brutal violence, blood and some GORE. The film does have its fair share of unnerving intensity and claustrophobia. The well-staged bits of mayhem and chaos succeed in delivering exactly what a true “independent” horror film that somehow feels like a homage to John Carpenter’s chaotic films in the 80`s. At first, I was afraid that it would merely focus on a forbidden love and serve up some doses of guilt; but the character introductions became quite impressive although I have to admit that the satire in the 2nd act did give me mixed feelings about the film, however small they were. The satire seems a little out of place and opened some minor plot holes, but I learned to appreciate its VERY dark sense of humor.

      AJ Bowen’s character, Lewis is actually the main antagonist in a way aside from the situation itself. His mind is so warped that he is doing the right thing that he actually thought that he is protecting himself and those around him. His character seemed a lot more interesting and maybe a little more compelling than Mya or Ben. In a way he is the victim of the affair, and however horrendous his actions may be, he ends up a little pitiable and empathetic.

      Now the film does have its share its flaws but it is also part of its charm. The third act seemed a bit too overly dramatic as to how the escape could be achieved and I did feel that the script began to run out of forward momentum. I am not sure whether each “transmission” was made in conjunction with the other or if each act was shot independently but the direction did seem to lose a little restraint and some scenes turned up a little cheap and heavy-handed.

      In closing, I do feel that THE SIGNAL is successful bit of independent cinema. The film does serve up a true cinematic experience on a shoestring budget. The strong performances by its cast takes most of its burden and its wit is clever enough for me to overlook its shortcomings. The film is a lot of fun to watch and the atmosphere is foreboding enough to give you some chills and shock value. Unnervingly suspenseful but sometimes a bit silly–it has the makings of a “cult” classic.

      Submited by : Embarazo

    • Fireflyfan

      Dunno about biased but he must be on drugs or something because this is the worst movie I have seen in a long, long time. The tonal shift between the first and second installments is so misjudged it’s a travesty, and the film doesn’t recover with the third part.

    • stewart

      After watching this movie the other night I walked out feeling like I just watched a solid horror movie

    • totalkanefan

      THIS MOVIE FUCKING RULES! All three directors presented great stories, and I loved the transmissions idea. The humor in the second transmission really breaks the tension in the other two and keeps you interested. Bravo, Bravo

    • The Buz

      Well we always get more site views with controversy.

    • Sirand

      This review is obviously biased.