Halloween Review – “Signs”

Our second M. Night Shyamalan film in the countdown
gets reviewed.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Mel Gibson as Graham

Joaquin Phoenix as Merrill

Rory Culkin as Morgan

Abigail Breslin as Bo

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Complete information is available from the

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past movie reviews can be found here.


A rural family face off against an alien invasion.

High Point

The character focus. This isn’t about the aliens or
the fight, like
Independence Day was, this is about how
people react to that
invasion. Shyamalan gives us all sorts of
information about those
characters in the first five minutes. I don’t like
giving spoilers,
but this time, I feel I must. The next paragraph
will spoil the first
five minutes only.

The opening shot is of a playground in a backyard.
We know that we’re
looking at a family, and viewing it from a lofty
vantage point, which
probably means it’s the perspective of the head of
the family. The
camera then pulls back, revealing the poor quality
window we’re
looking through. This is a slightly distorted view
of reality, and
it’s shielded from the world. The character who has
this view is
somehow isolated, and has some incorrect ideas about
the world he or
she lives in. Then we cut to Mel Gibson waking up
alone in a large
bed, and checking on the kids rooms without opening
the doors. He
walks through the house, passing a spot where a cross
once hung on the
wall. He hears distant screams shortly thereafter,
and starts
running. When outside, we meet Merrill for the first
time. He’s
living over the garage, and not in the main house.
This is someone
who is close, but still a step removed from the rest
of the family, as
though he doesn’t quite fit. At this point, we know
a bit about the
relationship between these two characters, and we
know the lay of the
land immediately around the house. Then they start
running to track
down the screaming kids. The corn fields are
established. We meet Bo
for the first time, wandering around in the area. In
this very short
conversation, we learn that there are two children
(as he’s only
concerned about one more), and that Graham is the
head of the property
as well as family (as Merrill waits for Graham’s
actions, and takes
orders watching Bo while Graham takes action looking
for Morgan.)
Then we meet Morgan, who is looking at the crop
circles with the two
dogs. Morgan suggests that God did it, which implies
that Morgan
still maintains faith that his father lost (as the
cross likely would
have still been on the wall if Graham had his faith.)
Here’s our
family dynamic in five minutes. Graham is in charge,
the mother is
missing, Merrill is around to help, Bo is more
inclined to listen to
Morgan than Graham, and Graham and Morgan have some
between them.

Low Point

The cameo made the significance of the little theory
way too obvious.

The Scores

I have to give originality credit for making
a monster movie
that’s not about the monsters. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are primarily implied. There
was some jerky
motion in the scene that starts with the reflection,
but the rest
looked very good. Unfortunately, that was the one
moment that really
gave us a good look at these things, and it really
needed to work. I
give it 4 out of 6.

The story is well assembled. The big
solution was lacking
subtlety, certainly. As for the complaints that it
wouldn’t work at
all, well, such physiologies are possible, although I
doubt that
they’d manage in our atmosphere without support gear.
Still, the
nature of the solution wasn’t the point. I give it 5
out of 6.

The acting was good from the adults. The
kids were stiff
even for child actors. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is excellent. Yes,
most of us saw the
ending coming, but the events along the way still
work. I give it 6
out of 6.

The production was excellent. The pacing,
the photography,
and the mise-en-scene are all extremely well
executed. This is a very
well made movie. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a good thriller, with a twist
more obvious than
previous Shyamalan work. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Signs receives 35 out of 42.

Halloween Countdown to date

4 replies on “Halloween Review – “Signs””

  1. Yeah, I know. We’ve had this discussion before

    I found the absurdity of the premise a serious problem. I think to make this work, the invasion should’ve been even further in the background; we don’t really need to know much about the aliens for his basic story to work. Or, the story could’ve been entirely set in a bad 50sesque invasion. For that matter, they didn’t even need to be aliens. The film devotes a good deal of time to explaining and justifying the reality of the invasion, and it doesn’t make sense: aliens who can be killed by the most common elements in the universe come to a planet brimming with them and wander around without so much as a rain coat—and no weapons. Beings who have perfected spaceflight can’t find their way out of a cupboard.

    As for the human story, the theology was shallow (where was God for the people who did die? Where was God for the aliens?) and the acting, fairly wooden.

    I think Shyamalan should abandon the “twist ending” obsession, and write and direct other kinds of stories. It’s not like he isn’t good, and after The Sixth Sense (and even Unbreakable‘s better moments), I really want to like his work.

  2. The little girl was cute
    Like, really cute. Cute enough for me not to be mad about spending money
    on that movie.
    I know that watching the Wizard of Oz high is all the rage, but dammit, “I’m
    meeeeeelting….MEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLTIIIiiiiiiiing” is fun for a witch, lame for
    aliens. They can make interstellar spaceships but they can’t make spacesuits,
    or hazmat
    suits, or gorram raincoats? Sheesh!

    At least the last aliens I saw that had this problem had it either with sea water
    only, or in a more obscure case had the presence of mind of landing in a
    desert and staying indoors. But this… I was actually enjoying the movie up to
    about the last 20 minutes or so. But that ending was SO bad that I’ve learned
    my lesson: that director made my black list, no more of my money for you!

    Here is another review, in four easy steps, of Signs.

    P.S. Are you compensating for the previous review’s lack of details with this,
    the longest highpoint ever? : )

    • Re: The little girl was cute

      They can make interstellar spaceships but they can’t make spacesuits,
      or hazmat
      suits, or gorram raincoats? Sheesh!

      P.S. Are you compensating for the previous review’s lack of details with this,
      the longest highpoint ever? : )

      For the lack of hazmat suits, I can buy it. Yeah, we need a better explanation of why they chose this planet in the first place, but with chameleonic skin, there’s an advantage to walking around naked. (You’d think, by this point, they’d have created that property in clothing, true, but there is some advantage.) Even without that, running around in desert or dry areas with raincoats on would be practically broadcasting their weakness. Few people think to use water as a weapon, so I can understand why they wouldn’t draw attention to it, once they’d decided to come here. We don’t know enough about what they wanted here to figure out exactly why they felt it was a worthwhile risk.

      As for the long Highpoint, it’s not compensation for yesterday. I read the reviews the other authors write when they’re posted. This review, though, was written in September. (We started planning this mid-September, and tried to get ahead on the review schedules to make sure we wouldn’t miss a day.) 14 of my 17 reviews for the countdown have already been written. (The reviews due on October 23, 24, and 25 are of movies not yet released on DVD.) I’ve got four of November’s reviews done, too, although November won’t be having this daily schedule.

      There are no plans for other such events just yet, but I have an idea for next summer that hasn’t really been discussed yet.

  3. For me..
    …the character development was the high point of the movie. The ‘easy’ way
    to kill them at the end was kinda weird and why would multiple aliens work
    so hard to hit one house in the country? Maybe if they were in town that
    would have made a bit of sense, but they’re out there in the middle of the
    field type of thing.

    Though I did like the use of the little girls obsession with ‘tainted’ water and
    how it came together at the end, just the fact that an alien is so easily
    effected by the water was a bit of a suspend the belief type thing. I mean
    here in NC they’d die because of the humidity in the air…

    That being said I enjoyed this one, but not near as much as the sixth sense.
    I’m hoping after this last movie he’s done with the ‘wild twist at the end’
    genre and does indeed branch out a bit.

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