Thursday, July 24, 2008

The signal

I was rather excited for The Signal, I must say. There's something exciting about the idea to me about a movie made up of three movies, with three directors taking three styles.

From what I've heard, the tonal shifts are what throws off a good deal of the audience from enjoying it... or at least enjoying it as much as they like.

Frankly, I think the opposite is true. I think they suffer from being obviously the same cinematographer, set designer, etc. I think not enough makes these unique visions... and, yes, I understand how having this work like a well-oiled machine with each director taking turns on set-ups and using the sets the same, etc., works for a movie on this budget.

And, while I can nitpick away at it... I think the idea of the people living in the city of Terminus, which was apparently the germ of the idea that got them to the movie, doesn't go anywhere or work at all. It merely drains the tension by reminding us that it's a make-believe place with an obviously made-up name. And since a major story-point involves a meeting at Terminal 13, the words "terminal" and "Terminus" sound silly said in proximity so often. The fact that it happened overnight doesn't hold up as well to intellectual scrutiny nor does the New Year's Eve concept work very well... What game were they watching at the beginning and why was it still on way after midnight? Why did the boyfriend tell her to meet him "on New Year's Eve" when the logical word was "tomorrow"?

But overall, I sound much worse in my judgement than I feel. It's terribly watchable, with a number of excellent ideas, generally compelling characters, solid acting.

Interestingly, I did find it interesting that co-director Jacob Gentry, in introducing his short movie "The Hap Hapgood Story", seems to take broad swings at J-Horror and zombie movies, somehow not considering that the feature he co-directed that the DVD features is in fact, in essence, a J-Horror-styled zombie movie. But then he was being defensive about that movie's potential to be positioned as a part of another movement.

Speaking of that movie, does The 48 Hour Film Project not allow swearing? I always find it disconcerting, and not in a good way, when movies are willing and able to show half-naked women being hung from the rafters to be beaten to death, but somehow having someone say "Fuck-a-doodle-dee" would cross some line.

I've gotten to rambling, though.

I just have a vision that somewhere, someone could really leap out with this multiple directors idea. Imagine Pulp Fiction with a different director and crew for each segment. One as it is, one muted and gritty and maybe one noir and even black & white... Or maybe one as a big Jerry Bruckheimer popcorn extravaganza... I'm just hypothesizing, but I think it would work, and nothing that I suggest would specifically be better than the extant work... just a thought that could be interesting.

I think The Signal would have worked better if it had been more like that.

Then again, I also think it would have been better with a smoothing rewrite of the whole movie and a single director doing the whole thing.

Trying to have it a little of both ways doesn't quite manage.

But then it's totally worth watching, and watching what these guys do next.


ARBOGAST said...

I didn't have a problem with the fictional Terminus setting and it actually works for me in that Terminus seems a community specifically marketed to the young. I don't remember seeing any elderly or middle aged residents and no children, as if it's supposed to be this mini city made just for young professionals and artists - you know, the very kind of elite that H. G. Wells wanted to run the world. But of course it all goes to shit because the one thing they DO let in is TV. I sense a theme in THE SIGNAL about what befalls people who try to tune out the real world with cell phones, television and iPods (Walkman personal listening devices, like that old school Maya listens to). It almost makes me think her madness is shutting out the world around her as if that will make all the bad things go away. So in this light, the self-contained world of Terminus is actually the best setting for horror, as was the island setting of THEY CAME FROM WITHIN. I think it gets at "ignoring the problem" so much better than LAND OF THE DEAD.

Neil Sarver said...

I find your explanation of Terminus quite interesting, and wish the movie itself better justified that in terms of that element. I definitely think the movie was interesting and worthy of consideration and attention. It's quite compelling, if not entirely successful.

ARBOGAST said...

It's quite compelling, if not entirely successful.

If I only had a nickel for every girl who said the same of me!

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