Indie horror film out of Atlanta about the plight of some people living in the fictional city of Terminus. On New Years Eve a mysterious signal begins transmitting through televisions, phones and radio. It has no known origin but anyone who is subjected to it has their paranoia levels tweaked to maddening levels and in turn resorts to the cold-blooded murder of anyone they percieve as a threat. The film is separated into three chapters, each having their own director. The common thread throughout them all are three core characters. Mya (Anessa Ramsey), her boyfriend Ben (Justin Welborn) and her extremely suspicious husband, Lewis (AJ Bowen). After being separated, The Signal details Ben’s attempt to find Mya while dealing with the rather large chunk of society who have fell victim to the signal – as well as Mya’s husband. 

Transmission 1: Crazy in Love – directed by David Bruckner

This is the beginnings of the strange phenomena that has citizens committing acts of brutal, calculated murder against their fellow humans. No 28 Days later or Dawn of the Dead stuff as these people can talk, think and react. The source of this mindset seems to be coming from a strange signal being broadcast via the television, radio or phone. Anyone exposed to this signal for a prolonged amount of time will basically have their brains re-wired into full-blown paranoia, thinking that killing whoever is near them is not only a good thing to do, it is also the RIGHT thing to do. This chapter is done to great effect with the ominous signs of something not quite right at the start, creating a sense of dread that is followed by the terror of witnessing the full-fledged effects of the signal inside an apartment building. This chapter is filmed from Mya’s perspective so the viewer remains as confused, scared, horrified as she does as she witnesses these effects on the building’s inhabitants, including her jealous, possessive husband.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTransmission 2: The Jealousy Monster – directed by Jacob Gentry

Instead of going for the pure horror of the first chapter, Gentry goes with dark humor. Very Shaun of the Dead-ish and very reminiscent of another dark comedy, Murder Party. This chapter has us locked in a house of a couple who had been planning a New Year’s Eve party before the shit hit the fan. With them is their landlord, Clark (Scott Poythress), and eventually Lewis from the first story. While total anarchy goes on outside, we watch – to pretty decent comedic effect – as these people attempt to “wait it out” and stay hidden from the dangers outside while dealing with people who come knocking on the door. It is in this chapter that Bowen and Poythress shine. Poythress switches between emotions with ease, and Bowen becoming the highlight of the film as a crazy person who does not know that he is crazy. Even though it took me a second to switch gears to this type of humor after the tone of the first chapter, it was a brief transition and before long I was enjoying the ride all the way to the finish line, when Lewis finally wears out his welcome.

Transmission 3: Escape from Terminus – directed by Dan Bush

This final chapter brings things full circle and picks up the torch from the first chapters horror element and doesn’t look back. It is the most brutal of the three chapters as Ben and Clark are on the run from Lewis and headed to the location they think Mya may be. This chapter displays the movies best gore effects in the form of a talking, smoking, decapitated head as well as a nice head-bashing via pesticide sprayer that is very reminiscent of the never-before-topped fire extinguisher death in the film Irreversible. This section is shot as a pure horror film that concludes (in a somewhat anti-climatic fashion) with the final showdown between Lewis and Ben, as well as dealing with the love-triangle that these three individuals have found themselves in.

The Signal could very well end up being some sort of cult classic in days to come. It has all the earmarks of one. Memorable scenes, a few over-the-top gore shots, pitch-black humor, a cautionary tell on the dangers of our dependence on electronic communication. It helps that the film avoids the pratfalls usually prominent in horror films by avoiding the cheap scare, or the industrial music laden action scene. The fact that each different chapter are not only linked by the characters within them, but also by small flashbacks ala Pulp Fiction, make the film seem as smart as the creators think it is. The gritty, digital look of the film also compliments the look as society outside falls into chaos. The creators also do a good job of just creeping out the viewer getting you into the head of a person afflicted with “the crazy”. A handful of scenes are shot so that you see things from the perspective of someone suffering the effects of the signal. It does an excellent job in helping you understand why these people are doing what they are doing while hammering home the terrifying, unfair realization of it all.

I really recommend this film to anyone who enjoys indie-horror, or indie films of any type, to see what can be done with a meager budget (rumored to be $50,000) and a completely amateur cast. The Signal may borrow elements from other films, but does a great job of standing on it’s own and is definitely worth a watch.

[rating:3.5/5]

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