The Signal—Magnolia (Blu-ray)
Independent thrillers and horror films have become the leaders in innovation and original concepts these days. While Hollywood looks to mass produce and remake everything that already been done, independents are fueling the fires with new ways to provide chills. The Signal reminds me a bit of the zombie genre in the way 28 Days Later did but with a new twist. Instead of an infectious disease we have a signal being broadcast through TV and phones that causes mass hysteria and unexplainable rage. The film focuses on a small group of people caught in the horror and is divided into three main acts all written and directed by different people but using the same characters and time line. I must say I really enjoyed the first and last act but found the second act to be a bit disappointing. This writer/director took the tone of the movie in a different direction and added a lot of dark humor that just didn't work for me. Thankfully the third act is strong enough to erase most of the issues and I finished the film with a positive outlook on the work as a whole.
This film was shot in HD with a digital camera that doesn't quite have a full 1920x1080 resolution. So the image has been scaled slightly and the lack of true resolution shows a bit from time to time. The image is very stylized and varies in quality throughout the presentation. This only lends to the feel of the film but it also prevents the image from really delivering an impressive presentation. Given the budget of this movie I would say this is a great looking film and one where the directors took advantage of their limitations and played them in their favor.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio and offers a solid thriller atmosphere with some nice range. When "the signal" is present you get a very pronounced soundstage with an atmospheric low end that was pretty cool. The front soundstage is very open and the sound design incorporates a lot of discrete sound cues to heighten the mood. Dialogue sounds strained at times but overall the presentation is natural in tonal balance. The track does succeed in enhancing the viewing experience and the lossless mix renders it well.
Extras revolve mostly around the production of the film and look at it from different issues the filmmakers had to deal with. There is also a short film included that was done by the filmmakers before and was also part of the feature film. A director's commentary and trailers are also included.
I have no doubt that Hollywood will try and replicate this one in some form or another. For an independent the filmmakers did a great job with story arc and design though I still wish the second part had a tone more in line with the first and third act. Overall I would definitely recommend this for fans of the thriller/horror genre and I'm glad Magnolia saw fit to put it out on HD.