The Signal, the end of the world comes not with a burst of fire and brimstone, or with a fiery star turning the oceans to blood, but rather with a television transmission. And even more strangely, this transmission is not
Hannity and Colmes. As part of the Fantasia Film Festival’s “Hell is a City” program,
The Signal is an apocalyptic film that takes place in the fictional but aptly named town of Terminus. One evening, a mysterious signal is transmitted through the television, radio, and telephone lines, transforming most of the town’s inhabitants into people who have read Stephen King’s
Cell. People have gone homicidally insane, but rationally so. They can speak, think, and function, but they just seem to think that killing is a good idea, like people who listen to black metal. While not as initially terrifying as the mindless killers of
28 Days Later or
Dawn Of The Dead, this inability to tell whether someone “has the crazy” has immense potential.
And that potential is fully explored in
The Signal. A group effort by three writer/directors, David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Genry, the film is split into three sections. And while the sections involve the same key characters, each has a uniquely different feel. In
Transmission 1, the first section, Miya returns home from an evening of conversation and adultery to discover her husband gradually turning on his friends in their apartment. Her subsequent flight through a city descending into madness owes a great deal to the aforementioned apocalyptic films, but maintains such an intensity any debts to other films are forgotten. The second section switches gears entirely, a comic piece that someone, brilliantly, manages to maintain the atmosphere and the horror introduced by the first portion while delivering laugh after laugh to the audience. And the final third of the film,
Transmission 3 succeeds in providing a solid, emotional climax to the piece without sacrificing any of the elements from the first two sections. Each director/writer manages to bring a unique feel to their section, with losing the thread that unites the film, or abandoning the style of their predecessor. It’s a remarkable achievement, really, to put your stamp on something while maintaining its place as part of a greater whole, and it’s fully explored here by the three directors, who show a grasp of narrative tension as well as an excellent sense of dialogue. Of course, style, atmosphere, and great writing would mean nothing without the performances to back them up, and thankfully
The Signal succeeds there as well. Generally, the fear with low budget DV projects such as this is that the instant the actors see the video camera, they revert to the sort of performance best suited to the pre-amble of a
Her First Lesbian Sex Dot Com webisode, but that’s not the case here. Nearly everyone in the film performs far above what the budget might imply. In fact, that’s the case for everyone involved in
The Signal. The end of the world, it appears, may not involve Wormwood and a sea of blood, but it does have quite a bit of talent.
The DV aesthetic was less successful with
The Morning After, a short film from Australian director Daniel Knight. But while the look may not have been great, it’s still a cute little film, provided you find self-amputation cute.