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From M. Night Shyamalan, the writer/director of THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE, comes the story of the Hess family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who wake up one morning to find a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his family are told extraterrestrials are responsible for the sign in their field. They watch, with growing dread, the news of crop circles being found all over the world. SIGNS is the emotional story of one family on one farm as they encounter the terrifying last moments of life as the world is being invaded. "It's easy for a filmmaker to blow up the world -- but what Shyamalan does is much riskier. He tries to blow our minds. I was engaged by every inch of SIGNS." - Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper.
The key component of this Vista Series DVD is a six-part documentary about the making of the film from idea to theatrical release. M. Night Shyamalan talks at length about the film and his filmmaking technique in this exclusive one-hour feature. The approach is straightforward but at times is as self-congratulatory as a marketing puff piece. Because Shyamalan works so leanly, the five deleted scenes are excellent, including a chilling scene from the film's final act. Also included are storyboard comparisons and another glimpse of one of Shyamalan's early home movies. Signs is the first of the Vista Series to be a single disc and the extras seem light, but there are only a couple of quibbles: the director again does not provide a commentary track and there is no DTS soundtrack. --Doug Thomas
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I've heard some complain that the film lacks sight of the big picture due to its exclusive emphasis on the central family but I think that's what really makes it work, what really makes it real. After all, who cares about the big picture? We don't experience the world as a city or nation, we do it as individuals. That and it just allows us to really get to know the characters, and for Shyamalan to create full, real characters rather than just having a pack of cliches in various cities spread out across the nation. (Like you'd see in something like 'Deep Impact', for example.) Phoenix and Gibson are both absolutely great in this film, particularly Phoenix. Gibson's Graham is a little to cold and distant for us to relate to him initially, so we really connect with Phoenix's Merrill first, though I definitely came around to liking Graham as the movie went on. They're both utterly naturalistic, and manage a real severe intensity in the most emotional scenes while still avoiding any histrionics. The two children, Culkin and Breslin, are fine. I'm always leery of children having prominent roles in movies, but Shyamalan largely avoids sentimentalizing them excessively (Morgan is kind of a whiny dork) or earning cheap audience identification. (In the scenes where the kids are in the greatest peril I identified far more with Graham then with the children themselves.)
Certainly, this won't be to everyone's taste as it is extremely low key up until the very end. And I don't mean this simply in the sense that it isn't violent or gory; that's true of a lot of modern horror films. The film simply refuses to show you much of anything through out the vast majority of the run time. There's a lot of noise related horror, obviously, and it goes light on the jump scares. (More amazingly, some of these scare tactics were actually surprising. Even after having seen it a couple of time before a few years back a couple of these were slightly surprising.) The film uses a particularly classic setting, the old siege on the farmhouse a la 'Night of the Living Dead'. Again, the primary siege is just so impressive because it manages real intensity despite the fact that they show you virtually nothing. The true climax is less effective, but it's still fine and is necessary from a thematic standpoint. Many people have complained about the `twist' in this film. I've got some news for you: This movie doesn't have a twist. Morons.
In the end, however, it may be the human element that really makes this movie standout. It's just a very tragic portrait of a family that has largely fallen apart. I'll admit it, it probably goes a little to far a couple of times, but it also manages a few genuinely moving scenes, which more than compensates. (Particularly note the great scene of Graham and Merrill discussing fate late one night, and Merrill's confronting Graham after the invasion night and so on.) As I always say, I don't really insist that my movies have realistic or likable characters, but the very best ones usually do. And 'Signs' has got that. Furthermore, Shyamalan's dialogue is generally leaps and bounds beyond what you usually see in a horror film, and it's also really quite funny much of the time.
I've heard a lot of morons complain that the aliens here don't behave in a realistic fashion. I had a long-winded rant worked out in my mind, but these people aren't gonna be convinced by that, or anything, as a matter of fact, so I'll just keep it simple: It's absurd to claim that the aliens in this behave in an unrealistic fashion because we, the viewer, don't know anything about them. There are an infinite number of potential explanations for why they act as they do, and 0 reasons to believe they would behave any other way. Any supposed logic you may have come up with relating to the aliens is irrelevant, because they are wholly of and within the movie. And perhaps more to the point, this comes with the territory. Complaining about the aliens in this film is like complaining about how hardly anybody has any guns in a contemporary martial-arts film.
Yes this is a great film. Definitely Shyamalan's best in my mind, as of this moment.
I don't believe this is SCIENCE fiction. At best, it is fantasy. Water does the aliens in. That in itself is completely preposterous. Water is pervasive in the universe and it is inconceivable that creatures who live at "room temperature" (Earthly "rooms") would be destroyed by water. All creatures from wherever they are in the universe who could walk the Earth without "space suits" would depend on water for their very existence. So introducing that concept is just the "War of the Worlds" device used to get rid of the aliens and save the world. Because of that, the fact that this is an "alien invasion" movie is almost irrelevant. What's left is simply wrong-headed.
So at best the details of the aliens are irrelevant to what this movie has to say, which to me is simply blasphemous. What I don't like about it are the religious implications of the nature of God, as if God would cause great suffering in the past so that people could be redeemed in the future. If God is like this, then Gibson's loss of faith in God when his wife dies in a senseless accident is justified, and it's absurd that he regains his faith when later circumstances "prove" the necessity of his earlier loss. It's inconceivable to me that God manipulates events to teach people a lesson so they'll be better off later in life. What about the people who suffer and die in the "lesson"? I cannot believe that a God with unlimited perspective on things who understands every nuance of existence would ever act this way. Besides, there's absolutely no scientific evidence that God could "cause" accidents to occur. That is a concept of God that became incredible with the science of the 20th century.
It's better to realize that however God might be, he has no powers of efficient cause in the world. Science refutes that possibility. The only role available to him is as a psychological persuasive force in competition with all of the "demonic" forces in the world, and that it is precisely limited perspective that is demonic. The wider your perspective, the better is your chance of understanding what God wants you to do. But the premise of this movie is that God causes tragedy and death for the benefit of those who live on. This means of course that God is the cause of evil in the world. It would be irrational to worship such a God, anymore than it would be rational to love any Great Leader with unlimited power, like Hitler or Stalin. Sure, some people under the unimaginably cruel rule of the Great Leader persuaded themselves that they loved their Great Leader. But it is beneath human dignity to succumb to such temptations. So I don't admire the Gibson character in this movie.