MOVIE REVIEW: THE SIGNAL / CERT:15 / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM EUBANK / SCREENPLAY: CARLYLE EUBANK, WILLIAM EUBANK, DAVID FRIGERIO / STARRING: BRENTON THWAITES, OLIVIA COOKE, BEAU KNAPP, LAURENCE FISHBURNE, LIN SHAYE / RELEASE DATE: TBA
While escorting his girlfriend Haley (Cooke) cross country to Caltech, Nic (Thwaites), along with his friend Jonah (Knapp), decide to track down a pesky hacker, Nomad, who has been bothering them of late - even managing to seize control of Haley's webcam. Once they reach the hacker's supposed lair however, things take a turn into Blair Witch territory, with the film switching from a realistic tone to an eerie mix of night vision and hand-held shots to freak out the audience before various incomprehensible things occur. Nic awakens in what seems to be a government facility and struggles to find out what happened to him, where his friends are, why everyone is wearing biohazard suits and what's with the oddly monotonous mannerisms of Laurence Fishburne, who keeps asking where Nic first encountered "The Signal"?
What follows next is a gradual build of interrogations, secret plotting and slow burn reveals as Nic tries to locate his friends, escape the facility and find out what the hell is going on.
Despite its initial lo-fi vibe, The Signal nicely sustains suspense and tension, skipping genres from buddy road trip to romantic drama to horror/sci-fi spookiness, all the while brewing up some central mysteries for our smart, MIT-attending protagonist to figure out. Once what has happened is finally divulged (but not why it was done or by whom), the film changes gear and stages some impressive slo-mo scenes that artfully convey jeopardy without turning the film into an out and out action/adventure film.
Unfortunately, the final reveal falls somewhat flat; it's not that the explanation for everything that has gone before is a disappointment, more that the way it is handled is slightly underwhelming, failing to leave the audience with some memorable imagery to reflect on, or to prime them for a bigger budget sequel. For this reason, The Signal doesn't quite live up to its Twilight Zone pretensions – it's more akin to a middling Outer Limits episode.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10