The Signal is a movie about 3 college students and their alien encounter (I know you got that from the title!). Nick and Jonah are freshmen from MIT who consider themselves elite hackers. They set out on a road trip, along with their friend Haley, to track down “Nomad”, a hacker who managed to break into the MIT servers and destroy artifacts including their work. They manage to uncover Nomad’s location: an abandoned house in the middle of the desert. The hunt for Nomad soon turns into a horror when they encounter aliens. Later, they wake up in a facility unable to recall the events that transpired. The constraints of the facility, required to avoid contamination by possible alien life, soon turn into captivity. What follows is how the trio tries to make sense of the circumstances and the larger plot of events at hand.
Let me begin by saying that The Signal is a visual stroke of genius. It is serene yet breathtaking at the same time. It manages to capture people, emotions and their surroundings in a way mostly seen in photographs. Yet this does not downplay the CGI, which for an indie movie is great by the way! The music is minimalist: you will get to hear ambient music accompanying the picturesque locales and silence when an element of horror is observed. You would ask, “What makes this a good sci-fi flick, if all it has is good visuals and humming music?” Well, undoubtedly it’s the story and its execution. The Signal touches a multitude of subjects such as love, fear, psychology, human behavior and Life Itself.
Not to keep beating round the bush, but it is hard to express the complete experience without putting out spoilers! It is the small details and intricate plot twists that keep you glued to what could be described as a slightly slow pace of the movie. However, some of the best things in life are meant to be enjoyed slowly, such as a fine glass of wine. The success of the story lies not with hiding facts to keep the audience misguided but to keep leaving breadcrumbs that lead to different possibilities and then finally reveal the actual happenings. Believe me, I thought of everything – time travel, multiple dimensions and more.
I am pleasantly surprised by the work of William Eubank, considering it is only his second movie as a director. The visuals were no doubt the result of his earlier work as a cinematographer. He was also involved in the story writing process along with Carlyle Eubank & David Frigerio. The cast is an interesting mix with two actors that have been under the spotlight recently: Brenton Thwaites (Oculus) plays Nick and Olivia Cooke (The Quiet Ones, Bates Motel) plays Haley, joined by Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix Trilogy) who brings along some experience to the troupe.
If indie sci-fi is not something you are familiar with and want to get started on, I would suggest that you definitely catch this on DVD, if not at the big screen.