Go ahead – tell me I’m a traitor for not picking E.T. or Men In Black, or even Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don’t care. My favorite alien movie ever, in fact one of my favorite movies period, is Signs. I have a very strange, intense fascination with this movie. I could discuss it for hours. I think the subtle plots points that build into the climax of the movie show that M. Night Shyamalan, despite what some critics may say, is a masterful storyteller. If you haven’t seen the movie, first of all shame on you. Secondly, the rest of my post has spoilers.
The beauty of the movie is in the subtleties. At first we have the crop circles, which could be a bunch of punk kids. Then they appear around the world. Then we have the animals acting strangely, which the town vet dismisses as “some kind of virus.” We see our hero Graham (Mel Gibson) get a glimpse of the alien’s leg in the field. Then Merill (Joaquin Phoenix) watches a news report with another glimpse of one of the aliens, this time in grainy black and white.
It all builds and builds. We come to know and relate to the characters – to know their fear and be concerned for their safety. The fear isn’t in seeing the aliens. The fear is the unknown. Not seeing the aliens makes them that much scarier. When we finally do see an alien, our terror doesn’t come from the image of the green, slimy being we’ve been expecting; it’s that the alien is threateningly holding one of our beloved characters.
The most wonderful part of the movie is how it all comes together in the end. There is a reason for everything. Merrill was the home run record-holder because one day he would need to bash some alien brain in. Bo had a weird water-drinking quirk because water is the one thing that will weaken the aliens. Morgan had asthma to protect him from alien poison gas. Everything happens for a reason.
Sure, it doesn’t have the explosions and fancy special effects that most alien movies have. It doesn’t have Will Smith (as two of my other favorite alien movies do – Independence Day and Men In Black). What it does have is a beautiful storyline that ties up all the loose ends. For that, Signs holds a special place in my MovieSnob heart.
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