At his best, M. Night Shyamalan does a really good job with spooky stuff. His first movie, The Sixth Sense, was clever and exciting. It was well put together. It built the suspense and the spookiness through to the surprise climax. His second movie, Unbreakable, wasn't quite as satisfying but it was still pretty interesting. In Signs, we see Shyamalan at his worst, or at least, I hope it's his worst. Simply put, Signs is stupid and boring. It is like one of those bad X-Files episodes where Chris Carter didn't have time to think up anything new that week and recycled some old plot about aliens. The other half of the plot felt a bit familiar too. At least, I remember it from an old episode of China Beach. So, maybe Shyamalan couldn't sleep one night and was watching reruns of X-Files and China Beach when he came up with this plot. Actually, the only story I can think of that is similar in theme to this is A Prayer for Owen Meany, the book, not the unfortunate movie version. In that great book by John Irving, two boys endlessly practice "The Shot" without knowing why until the very end. I won't give much away about the plot although it's not very exciting when you do find out. A former minister (Mel Gibson) lives with his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) and his two young children (Rory Culkin & Abigail Breslin) on a farm. They are all still traumatized after Gibson's wife's recent death. The son is dealing with asthma and the daughter obsesses about water. The brother is a failed minor-league ball player. One day, they find that their corn has been crushed to the ground in intricate patterns, i.e., crop circles. Then, all hell breaks loose. I won't say any more except that the plot makes no sense. I'd like to go into detail about why it makes no sense but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I'll just say that the rest of the plot is pretty stupid.
I'm a big X-Files
fan so I am able to suspend my disbelief. But Signs makes less sense
than your average X-Files
plot. And worse, this film just didn't interest me. The pace is very
slow much like The Sixth Sense
but instead of building suspense, all it builds is boredom. It's
unfortunate, because besides having a good director, this movie has an
excellent cast. Gibson, as usual, is able to rise above the material
and make any part believable. he makes Signs watchable. He
is helped by Phoenix who has some good chemistry with Gibson. Shyamalan
plays a small but key part himself. This should have been a better
film. The idea is good if a bit unimaginative. Shyamalan's
direction is interesting and there's something very powerful about a field
of corn. A corn field as a mysterious place of power has been used
in previous films, notably Field
of Dreams. And it is even used in X-Files.
As usual, Shyamalan is dealing with issues of life and death and the connections
therein. But Signs is the least successful of his films.
It is boring rather than suspenseful. I really like him
so I hope he gets back on track next time.