The Signal (2007) d. David Bruckner / Jacob Gentry / Dan Bush (USA)
After a mysterious transmission invades every cell phone, radio, and television, humanity turns against itself with the end of the world looming nigh. This gimmicky yet strangely moving fright flick distinguishes itself not through originality, but by smartly integrating just about every popular trend afflicting contemporary horror films.
It borrows the notion that technology is great, except when it transforms people into senseless thrill-killers, throws in a zombie-like plague, then sprinkles references to The Thing, Poltergeist, and Stephen King’s novel Cell liberally throughout, and serves it up with a novel creative format zinger – three interlocking "transmissions," each written and directed by a triptych of Atlanta filmmakers: David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush.
The three acts shift in their perspective and tone, from gritty realistic paranoia to black comic satire to existential desperation, while propelling the narrative and developing the apocalyptic atmosphere with confidence and ease. But it is the focus upon character and human emotion that gives The Signal its heart – rather than populating the screen with hateful teen protagonists, we are given a honest-to-God love triangle amidst a world gone mad, forcing viewers to genuinely care about who survives, who doesn’t, and who ends up with whom.
Each transmission follows a character – the unhappily married wife (Anessa Ramsey), her obsessive violent husband (AJ Bowen) and her sensitive artist lover (Justin Welborn) – and the expert weaving of the trivergent storylines is both thrilling and gratifying.
For sheer bravura filmmaking, this is one indie horror effort that deserves your full attention.