Signs (2002) – M. Night Shyamalan

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The 101 Sci-Fi Movies list is drawing to an end, and it allowed me to rewatch M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs with Mel Gibson.

It’s easy to jump right to the end, and complain about the idea that if these aliens were so afraid of water, apparently it can kill them… why take a chance on coming to Earth anyway??

Beyond that, it’s not a bad film. In fact it shows us a completely different take on the alien invasion story. Our characters, led by Mel Gibson as a former Reverend Graham Hess, watch as the invasion takes place off-screen, and deal with that as well as the concepts of faith and fate.

Rounding out his family is Joaquin Phoenix as his brother Merrill, Rory Culkin as Morgan and Abigail Breslin as Bo.

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Hess discovers crop circles in his field, and is at first willing to chart it up to hoaxsters, until reports start streaming in from all over the globe, until glowing lights begin to appear over cities, visible only at night, until frightening images appear on the news, and things stalking around their house and field.

Now it’s suggested that these aliens are conducting a raiding party, so perhaps, they were so desperate for food or slaves in the person of humans, that they felt it was worth taking the risk to come to a water-dominated planet, with no real explanation of their motivations though, it just makes them look stupid – especially when we learn they have problems with doors.

These flaws sadly overshadow the rest of the story, which is actually really enjoyable, and features strong performances by the entire cast, though even at this point I was tiring of M. Night shoehorning himself into acting roles in his own films…

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I quite like the way the film ties the traumatic death of Hess’ wife with the climax, which in most films would be a ridiculous time to showcase a flashback, but watching how these moments, how everything is set up from the get-go is always enjoyable. It’s sad that Shyamalan became known as a one-trick pony, the guy with the twist at the end of his movies, because there always seemed to be so much potential there (course then there was Lady In The Water – oh boy).

Still, watching the way the family interacts makes so many moments in the film shine, the looks, the shared history, the beats, are all wonderfully paced, eliciting laughs, shivers and tears.

If only the ending wasn’t such a let down… water? Sigh.

Rewatching it, everything about it is actually really enjoyable and wonderfully crafted, and as mentioned it makes for a nice, rarely seen take on the alien invasion story – everything really big is happening elsewhere, our characters are trapped in their farmhouse, watching it unfold – like many of us no doubt would if such a thing were to happen to us.

Just remember that if it does happen, have plenty of water handy!

What’s did you think of it? Do you have a favorite Shyamalan film?

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