“The Signal” is a hodgepodge of many different genres ranging from horror to conspiracy thrillers. Made on a budget of $4 million, the film offers visually stunning sequences that are almost on par with some of this summer’s big budget blockbusters.
Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are M.I.T hackers that get into a pissing contest with a hacker named Nomad while on a cross-country trip with Nic’s girlfriend Hayley (Olivia Cooke). Looking to get one over Nomad, the computer geeks decide to surprise the hacker by locating where his signal is coming from, which happens to be located in a desolated cabin in the middle of the desert. These “bright” people decide it is a good idea to go to the cabin at night because they are so desperate to find Nomad. Quicker than you can say, “Don’t go in there,” things soon gets strange.
It is obvious during certain portions of the movie that cinematography-turned-director William Eubank is clearly a fan of films from legendary directors/visionaries Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. The film’s top-notch production values that rivals any cookie-cutter sci-fi film Hollywood can produce and release from Nima Fakhrara’s hypnotizing score to David Lazenberg’s superbly beautiful cinematography.
Co-written by Eubank, his brother Carlyle and David Frigerio, the story begins to resemble every horror movie including familiar clichés like the arrogant main characters who need to achieve their goal by going into an obviously creepy cabin. The movie becomes more interesting when Nic awakens in a windowless facility to find out that Hayley is in a coma and both he and Jonah are being kept prisoners in a windowless facility run by its mysterious and stoic administrator, Dr. Damon Wallace (Laurence Fishburne).
Fishburne brings a certain gravitas to the movie as this ominous figure whose monotone delivery is reminiscent of HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” While Fishburne plays an expressiveness doctor, Thwalites goes through a gamut of emotions as his character does everything within his capabilities (complete with some mad “MacGyver” skills) to find out what is happening and what is his purpose.
The problem with this movie is that the Eubanks and Frigerio establish some interesting concepts into the story, but it doesn’t come to fruition as the plot progresses. Certain ideas are introduced into the narrative and they are never revisited or explained, making the story more confusing for the audience to comprehend. As good as the acting is, it is hard to care for the characters on their journey if they are hardly given any solid background aside from some short yet mesmerizing flashbacks.
“The Signal” is a gorgeously visual and unique sci-fi film that doesn’t completely follow up on some of the ideas it establishes early on. However, there are enough twists and turns in the story that makes it feel like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
“The Signal” is now playing at AMC Aventura 24, AMC Sunset Place 24, Cinemark Paradise 24 and Regal South Beach Stadium 18. Click here for showtimes.