Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Signs (2002)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin


Scariest movie I’ve seen in a while, like War of the Worlds (the dialogue reference was a bit jarring) meets Children of the Corn. I like how it all takes place on a farm, with only blips of international media.

This is the product of an educated filmmaker. Many moments channel Hitchcock with their simplicity and suggestion. There’s even some comedy which works. And there are nice performances all around, especially Gibson who turns in a refreshingly understated performance. Some of the dialogue feels a bit scripted and unnatural, though.

Unfortunately, along with the intriguing story, authentic setting, and engaging performances, there are some plot issues. If they are so physically weak (as evidenced by the alien’s trouble getting through doors and the inability to defend against a baseball bat), how did they intend to take over the world through ground combat? And if they are allergic to water, how come they didn’t wear protective suits or something? And they left the poor guy behind cuz he lost a couple of fingers?

In the words of one of the reviews on Harry’s site: “Can’t we explain away some of the plot holes – e.g., aliens being highly vulnerable to a substance that covers three-quarters of the planet they’re invading – by making reference to the Army recruiting officer’s chat with Joaquin? He said the aliens were doing a limited probe, or reconnaissance. Maybe the point of the whole thing was to discover the enemy’s strengths and their own vulnerabilities. Maybe they had always planned to leave in a matter of days after arriving – after gathering their intelligence. Maybe this is why the alien was just hanging around Gibson’s place, watching. He and the other aliens weren’t actively, aggressively engaging people. Maybe this was why the ships were just hovering over cities, watching. Basically, they were gathering intelligence until people started to fuck with them, and then they had to pick up and leave. When they left, they had a little checklist that said, “Water – bad. Baseball bats – bad. Crude wooden blockades – bad. Kitchen knives – bad. Mel Gibson’s acting – bad. Poison gas – GOOD! This shit works! Plus, we can outrun these people. So when we come back, we just need to bring raincoats, squirt people with the gas, and then run away real fast until they’re dead… The one problem I see with the reconnaissance theory is that they apparently knew not to land near water before ever arriving. At least that’s what Night said in the movie.”

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