Text-messaging the apocalypse

The Signal gets inside your (zombie?) head

HORROR FILM Jacob Gentry, one of the three codirectors of The Signal, assures me he's "fully prepared for the zombie apocalypse." His cohorts, David Bruckner and Dan Bush, agree that they love zombie movies. But they would also like to make it clear that The Signal — which supposes that "a rift in the electromagnetic sector" has infected cell phones, televisions, and other devices, inspiring all who experience it to inflict terrible violence — is not a zombie movie.

"If you took all 360 channels of your satellite TV and spat them out in one single signal and turned the volume up, would you become a little bit more frantic?" Bruckner asks. "If it pushed one person to the point of pushing another person, could it start a giant chain reaction of violence across the country?"

Bush adds, "I look around me and I see a lot of pissed-off people that are really close to some sort of violence as it is. In our movie the people are conscious, they're rational, they're aware of their decisions — they're not bloodsucking morons."

Yep, they're rational — and that's what makes them so spooky. The Signal unfolds in three chapters, each helmed by a different director. Every segment is told from the point of view of a different character: cheatin' wife Mya (Anessa Ramsey), her lover Ben (Justin Welborn), and her jealous husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen).

"The first section is visceral and straightforward," Bruckner explains. "Then we get into the second section and we get inside the head of someone who's very, very signalized. From his perspective it takes on a black-comedy tone. Then we get to the third section and we focus on the hero and his journey."

Cinematic gore and chaos are always enjoyable, and The Signal, which taps into the totally legitimate notion that humans are slaves to their technology, conveys an overall feeling of psychic dread. But the film's middle section, in which a weapons-wielding Lewis home-invades a failed New Year's Eve party, is the film's strongest. Perhaps it's because humor is the most comfortable way to digest the film's suggestion that anarchy is just one fucked-up frequency away.


Opens Fri/22 in Bay Area theaters

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