Signs ★★★★½

Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky?

While not nearly as underappreciated as The Village, I have an impression that Signs is somewhat underrated and forgotten these days. It's one of the best horror movies of the last two decades and a truly unique and very touching take on alien invasion sub-genre that certainly deserves more love.

James Newton Howard's score is iconic- it's so passionate, so aggressive, it actually sounds possessed, which is such a fun link to the main theme of the movie - faith. There are people out there who believe in the existence of aliens, there are those out there who believe in gods. We tend to look at those who believe the aliens exist as if they were crazy, and we say nothing about those who believe there is some entity out there controlling what happens to us. Why is that? And what if both of these groups are right? There's even a pretty entertaining theory out there that it's not aliens but demons. I think there's enough things in the movie to completely destroy this one, but it's a sign of a good film when it inspires interpretations like that.

The term "jump scares" gets a bad rep these days but it shouldn't when they are done right. And this film has several jump scares which are done expertly well, the birthday video footage rightfully hailed as one of the scariest movie moments of all time. The influence of The Birds is so evident but it never feels like anything less dignified than a homage. Shyamalan also knows that the glimpses of the monster are far more frightening than showing it in its entirety, as people's imagination always conjures things that are far worse than any filmmaker could. I am always a fan of scary things hiding in plain sight and this film does it so well. And while the film has so many terrifying moments, it also has so much warmth and humor.

Mel Gibson is so well cast and before we saw his true colors he was one of the most "easy to root for" people on the screen. Joaquin Phoenix delivers one of his best performances here, but it is a bit of a shame that Mark Ruffalo, who was cast in the role, had to drop out (due to what thankfully turned out to be a benign tumor). Ruffalo has sweeter disposition than Phoenix, so his Merill would be even gentler, not to mention the age difference between him and Gibson, who is supposed to be his older brother here, wouldn't be this big. Abigail Breslin and Roman Roy's younger brother are so adorable and Cherry Jones and Merritt Weaver always have such great presence in films. I just wish M. Night didn't show up in front of the camera again, it ruins the immersion.

A movie so good I can even forgive the horror cliche I absolutely hate occurring twice here.

📝Shyamalan: ranked

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