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Signs - Click to view! SIGNS (2002)
Starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin.
Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
MPAA rating: PG-13

M. Night Shyamalan is known for his freaky/scary movies. He started with The Sixth Sense (all together now: "I see dead people!"), then he went on to the weird Unbreakable (did anyone really like that one?) and now he takes on the aliens in Signs. It could be described as Independence Day meets Stephen King, but better. Shyamalan proudly displays his ability to keep an audience in suspense. The slow timing of lines, the camera angles, the music… All serve to play up the anxieties of the viewer. Delivering all the obligatory thrills chills and near-death experiences, Signs also offers some sound teachings on faith and believing in God. Yes, believe it or not, a Hollywood fright-flick can preach.

And the aliens do not come in peace. They place huge geometric symbols in fields across the world, and one of the crop circles appears in the field of Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson. Graham is a reverend who's wife died in a tragic accident six months earlier, leaving him with two children, and an immense hatred of God. He therefore quits his job at the church and even goes so far as to tearfully claim that he will "not waste one more minute" of his life by praying to God. All through the movie he make remarks about how there is no 'higher being' who keeps an eye on those of us on the earth.

His family craves faith however. As it becomes clear that the crop circles are navigational markers to facilitate an invasion of earth, Graham's brother Merrill asks for comfort, and his kids ask for him to pray over what might be their last meal. His loss of faith creates a visible hole in familial relationships. At the end, when the evil has passed, Graham realizes that God has spared his son in non-supernatural, yet still miraculous way. Seemingly benign things like a girl's finicky habits of leaving water around the house and a boy's struggle with asthma all come together to provide a way out of terrible danger. It was all too coincidental to be happenstance. God was there, He did have His hand on the situation, and the film portrays it as such. An interesting plot line for a big budget film.

There was no sex or excessive language (at the beginning where Merrill talks about whooping the a** of some troublemakers, and there were some instances of d*** and s***) and could be classified as a clean movie. Those who tend to have nightmares, or lose control of bodily functions when stressed should steer FAR away from this film. Shyamalan knows exactly what is scary and plays it up to its highest form. Things leap out unexpectedly, the creepy sounds abound, the aliens have a haunting language, and darkness comes at the most terrifying moments.

It would not be hard to use this film as a witnessing tool. "What did you think of Graham's faith?" will instantly start a huge conversation about what faith is and why it is important. The possibilities are endless when you get into why the movie ended the way it did. If that was the only virtue of this movie, it's enough. For a film to proclaim that there is a God who actually gives a darn, that is a film worth supporting, production and writing (both of which are very well done) aside. If you can stand a scary movie, go see Signs.
- Melissa Miles
August 2002
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