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"signs" (2002) - m. night shyamalan
posted on 24-Aug-2002 by anton

signs is a picture that seems to be a homework of a careful student that has studied the semiotics of the horror genre and repackaged them using modern techniques with a smallest bit of creativity. there is hardly anything original in this picture, at some point it becomes a "guess that reference" game. it is so manipulative, that each surge of emotion it extorts from you (be it a laugh of relief, or a gasp of astonishment) is immediately followed by a sharp pang of shame. the usual contrasts of comic relief and suspense, the shameless manipulation of the viewers with familiar camerawork and predictable lines. it is a polished banal rollercoaster, when you know that everything will be fine at the end, but meanwhile your heart involuntary bounces up and down. a few times I actually noticed a hint of self-irony, which was somewhat of a redeeming quality; too bad it has been drowned in a deafening dose of christian morale that was even beyond irritating - it made me cringe at its tackiness.

admittedly there were a few nicely done moments - the fact that they never reveal the aliens until the last moment (which was followed by the most tasteless and sickening triumph of American values, where tough burly American kid beat the fuck out of poor alien (with a baseball bat! I thought it was pretty damn funny, and thanked them for the subtlety - at least it was not a pole with an american flag - until I realized that they were actually serious), that at the moment seemed surprised and even sad, inevitably transforming into an embodiment of every minority that has suffered from the same treatment); too bad that even this subtlety of letting the mind scare itself has been overused and finally became just a confirmation of director's laziness and lack of creativity, proved by the inept character design revealed at the end (I have watched blade II just a few days before that, and despite its tacky gimmicks, moronic dialogue, bad comic-book acting, it was really worth watching for stunning set designs and superb creature designs). I liked the fact that so many elements came together at the last moment - the glasses of water and the voices from the past; too bad they were never developed properly and in retrospect seem as something hastily slapped on top of the plot and having little correlation with anything else.

general audience of signs is modern kids, desensitized by everything loud and fast - it has to be even louder, even faster, more melodramatic, with jackhammer morals to get through to them. so there you go - chew your popcorn, laugh and scream at designated places, let your mind wander somewhere else, as the puppeteer does his work. finally, forget everything the moment you left the theatre.


 
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