Do You Have the Crazy??
That’s the question on everyone’s lips when a rogue transmission sends half of the population of Terminus into a murderous frenzy, leaving the other half to fend for their lives against their former friends, family, and neighbors. For Mya (Anessa Ramsey) and her lover Ben (Justin Welborn), the ‘signal’ makes their adulterous dalliance all the more dangerous as Mya’s already suspicious husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen), has been transformed into a full-on killing machine bent on bringing his wife back home. As civilization crumbles around them, Ben and Lewis each scour the city for Mya, but who will she be by the time they find her?
Told in three chapters, each helmed by a different director, and told from a different character’s point of view, The Signal is a low-budget marvel of sci-fi/horror cinema that packs more power, terror, humor, and emotion than many films costing a hundred times this movie’s meager budget ($50,000). The three leads are excellent, with A.J. Bowen turning in a particularly effective and tragically funny performance as the jilted husband. The film’s middle chapter is told through his perspective, and we’re shown that those with “The Crazy” are so crazy that they think they’re completely sane, rationalizing their murderous actions as either self-defense or self-preservation. Lewis simply wants to find his wife and bring her home, and it’s touching and a bit sad to see him lumbering through Terminus to find her, despite the fact that she’s been sleeping with Ben. So well realized is the character of Lewis that I lost most of my emotional investment in the intended heroes, Ben and Mya, and this is my only major gripe with The Signal.
Were we given a reason to hate Lewis as much as Mya seems to, perhaps we could empathize with her, but, instead, her character just comes off as a deceptive cheat, and, while Lewis does seem overly suspicious and protective of his wife, it’s patently obvious that he has every reason to be. Perhaps the filmmakers were going for that whole “flawed hero” thing, but I just found myself absolutely indifferent to Mya. Still, The Signal is foremost an intelligent and darkly funny sci-fi/horror bloodbath, and, aside from my character quibbles, works magnificently.
To paraphrase Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, The Signal on Blu-ray is what it is. The film was shot on HD digital video, and looks pretty darned good, but isn’t something you’re going to use to show off your system. There’s a lot of digital noise, some blocking and artifacting in dark scenes, and some really harsh whites. This is also a very “neutral” looking film, so color doesn’t exactly jump off the screen, here, but what little color there is comes across with sufficient vibrancy and clarity. The transfer has moments of excellent depth and detail, but, for the most part, the image quality is rather inconsistent and not quite up to snuff with the majority of BD’s.
The audio comes across a little better than the video, but, once again, the film’s budgetary restraints are obvious, here, as there’s some muffled dialogue, less-than-stellar mixing, and that sort of “white noise” sound you hear in a lot of shot-on-video productions. Much of this is masked by a haunting score, however, which sounds rich and full, as well as bits of the titular signal’s stomach rumbling and ear-splitting cacophony.
With the exception of a handful of trailers, supplements are presented in standard definition, and include a short making of featurette, deleted scenes, some additional scenes used to promote the film online, and more. There’s also an excellent commentary by the film’s trio of directors, a short slasher called “The Hap Hapgood Story”, and, for those who want to recreate The Crazy in the comfort of their own home, a full version of the insidious transmission designed to blow out your speakers it would seem.
The Signal is an expertly made, refreshingly original, and truly impressive “little” film that feels quite epic. While the transfer and lack of HD supplements don’t exactly espouse the virtues of owning a Blu-ray player, this is still a worthwhile purchase/rent for fans of flicks like ‘28 Days Later’ and the Romero zombie movies looking for a novel twist on the genre.