With his previous film Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan took the superhero film and whittled it down to its most restrained. The result was a moody drama that audiences didn’t flock to with as much gusto as the filmmakers pop culture phenomenon that was The Sixth Sense. For his next feature, Shyamalan went back to the more traditional thriller/horror elements that made The Sixth Sense such a smash and brought the alien invasion genre down to its most minimalistic form with the invasion being seen through the eyes of a single family on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. This is Signs.
The movie easily favors mood over plot and logic. To be honest, it works. It so easy to get swept up in the atmosphere given off by this film that a lot of the plot inconsistencies aren’t readily apparent until after the movie is over. I’ve never had much of a problem with the film’s “twist” ending as most others have. Sure, it’s a little suspect that aliens would invade a planet that is predominantly made of their mortal weakness. First of all, I don’t consider the fact that their weakness is water to be a twist ending. It’s more just a payoff to one of the movie’s long building set-ups. Whether you think its good or not is another story. Secondly, the fact that aliens allergic to water invading Earth isn’t so ridiculous when you consider there might be some resource here worth going after (hell, the aliens in War of the Worlds die from bacteria). I’ve always had more of a problem with the fact they couldn’t get through that basement door. Besides, the whole movie felt more of a science-fiction flavored way of retelling the story of Job than anything else.
I saw Signs in the theater and it was one of the best movie going experiences in my life. If you had asked me at the time, I would have said this was a perfect movie. Despite some of its failings, it is the reason I will go see any new Shyamalan film in the theater, no matter what it is. That desire hasn’t served me as well in recent years given the three-pronged assault of badness with The Happening, The Last Airbender, and this year’s After Earth, but there is no way I will ever go back on it. To me, the experience of seeing Signs in the theater along with how good The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are (and even The Village to a certain extent), is enough for me continue giving this man’s work the benefit of the doubt. For how long, remains to be seen.
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