I missed Signs when it came out in the cinemas, and never got around to watching it on DVD until last night. I was very impressed. Shyamalan’s direction is stylish, tight and perfectly matching the suspenseful storyline. With creative camerawork he manages to convey the ordinaryness of the home life while infusing the whole thing with a sense of the supernatural. He clearly owes a great deal to Hitchcock and Spielberg…the wheeling flock of birds, the children’s swing set with a swing moving eerily. These allusions to The Birds and E.T. are just two examples.
What I also enjoyed about the film was the excellent script and superb acting. The scenes with the children were especially well written. Both children were believable–not the cardboard cutout kids you see in so many scary movies, but likable, eccentric, children who have been wounded by tragedy and are trying to survive. Gibson’s scenes with them are some of the most natural and best portrayals of fatherhood on film I’ve seen.
The film has been criticized for being a bit heavy handed with the inner meaning. I don’t think it was. It’s true there are a couple of ‘meaningful conversations’, but they’re done from a standpoint of Hess’ (Gibson’s) doubt as an Episcopal priest who has lost his faith, not from a preachy point of view. When the plot points resolve in the final scene to support faith and the fact that ‘there are no coincidences’ the meaning comes through clearly, but not with a punch on the nose.
What else did I like? The monsters looked demonic. The fact that they were defeated in the way they were by a ‘primitive solution discovered in the Middle East’ was a nice theological point. I’ve always contended that there are definitely such things as ‘extra terrestrials’. They don’t live on other planets. They live in another dimension. They’re what we’ve always called angels and demons. That they’re visible in the film only makes the film even more of a morality tale for our age. It’s interesting to see this handled with a strong spiritual subtext, and no better actor to take it on than Gibson.