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Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 4:25 AM

Both M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and Atlanta filmmakers Jacob Gentry, Dan Bush, and David Bruckner’s The Signal deal with a group of people under siege by an apocalyptic case of the psychotics. One of the film’s signal sends humans into a suicidal mode, while the other film’s signal sends them into a killing mode.  In The Happening, it is discovered that the signal being transmitted is organic and the humans’ one way to survive is through technology; in essence, the ability to contact one another through television and radios.  In The Signal, radios and televisions are the messengers of the deadly signal and one of the central characters claims he was spared the whole psychosis of this signal by the sunlight; thus, making nature a helpful aspect in The Signal.

Ever since the success of The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has taken a beating by critics for his following films.  Granted some of his films really tease one’s ability to fall prey to the will of the magical escapism of film (i.e. The Village, The Lady in the Water and the final “baseball scene” in Signs).  Yet others are truly thought provoking, such as Unbreakable and The VillageThe Happening falls into the latter category.  Although many would disagree that the story is almost laughably unrealistic, it is that sense of overwhelming doubt of validity that makes it so intriguing.  Many might say, “no way,” but some will say “what if?”  It is the “what if” that makes all of Shyamalan’ s films so absorbing.  In the same sense that The Signal was a low budget film with unknowns, The Happening uses a handful of familiar Hollywood faces ( a science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) who tries to escape with his wife and friend's daughter after an apocalyptic event. The Happening costars Zooey Deschanel , John Leguizamo and the step-mother from the 80’s television series Eight is Enough), yet still is a quiet and unassuming thriller which verges on the gore of a slasher flick.  The Signal uses the techniques of directors such as Quentin Tarantino to pay homage to grindhouse pictures.

The Signal is a much lower budget production.  Released in theaters in 2007 and on DVD last week, The Signal is three writers/directors presenting three separate segments of the story paying homage to slasher films, traditional love stories and the earlier mentioned grindhouse pictures.  Like, The Happening, there is a love story and a love triangle.  Although, in The Happening, this triangle is diminished before it really begins, The Signal begins with an extramarital affair triggering the actions of the characters throughout the film.  The Happening ends with blissful results for the married couple, while The Signal ends with a hallucinogenic homage to Re-Animator.

The Happening and The Signal question our safety.  Lots of films have been put out there with the theme of conspiracy, but both of these films tend to steer clear of too much information in regards to explanations.  Therefore, both of these films, let the viewer ask the questions for days after viewing.


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