Movie Review: Signs (2002)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 2002 science fiction thriller starring Mel Gibson and Abigail Breslin.

Synopsis: After giving up his faith following his wife's death, a widowed ex-minister is trying to piece his life together on the family farm with his two children and younger brother when mysterious crop circles appear in his corn. As more circles begin to appear and the world realizes an alien invasion is imminent, he is forced to do everything he can to keep his family safe.

Review

I came across this film on one of our movie channels a few nights ago and, since my wife and I had not watched this movie since our oldest daughter (now 12) was a baby, I decided to record it. We finally got around to watching it over the past couple of evenings and the movie turned out to be as good as I remember it being.

My wife and I watch a lot of horror movies/thrillers and, for the most part, they have very little effect on us. This movie, however, once again managed to give her nightmares after she saw it. And, while I can't say it had the same effect on me, I can definitely say it is easily one of the creepiest thrillers I've ever watched.

There are a couple things I really like about this movie. The first is the way it makes every effort to avoid showing you the aliens. Most of the time, all you see are shadows or body parts (like a hand coming under a door) or hear noises. And, when the movie does show the full aliens, it's usually a quick glance or an obscured view.

I like the decision to do this because it prevents the movie from losing some of it's potential by having fake-looking extraterrestrials. It also creates a little extra suspense because it's hard not to imagine an alien-like hand reaching up from behind you or from under the couch while watching this.

Another thing I liked about this movie was the limited information the dad (Gibson) and his family had. Most of their information came from a questionable book and the news broadcasts they saw on TV or heard on the radio were very limited. As a result, they were left to guess about what was happening around them. This was not unlike Night of the Living Dead (one of my personal favorites) only, instead of zombies, they had much smarter and much quicker aliens.

When watching the movie, I originally wasn't a big fan of all the flashbacks relating to the now-deceased wife (Patricia Kalember) and how she died, mostly because it seemed like the movie was spending too much time on something that, at least at first glance, seemed to have very little to do with the movie and could easily have been summarized. However, I must confess, after watching the movie again and being reminded of how it does tie in with the current events, I do think it was a nice touch to what was already a good film.

In fact, probably my only real dislike about this movie was the son (Culkin). I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I just had a hard time warming up to him, partly because there were times when he seemed a little creepier than the aliens (I half expected him to be caught playing with matches).

And, while I did think the daughter (Breslin) was cute, especially because her obsession over water reminded me of my kids, I do feel like there was a missing piece to her story. There were times, for example, when she hinted at being able to dream future events. But, the movie never really spent any great deal of time focusing on that gift and, because of that, it just seemed like it was a somewhat wasted plot point.

Final Opinion

Other than maybe making some serious changes to the son, I think this is one of the best alien invasion movies I've seen. It offers just the right amount of suspense and creepiness and is a film I definitely would recommend as a result of that.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 02/02/2017, StevenHelmer
 
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