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.
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.
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.
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
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