August 2002

Reviewed by Wilson Morales


Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, and M. Night Shyamalan
Screenwriter: M. Night Shyamalan
Music: James Newton Howard
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, & Cherry Jones

In order for a thriller to work, the level of fear has to remain constant throughout the film. The film has to bring out the weakness in you as the suspense builds up to what you may be afraid of. When “The Sixth Sense” came out in 1999, it was the sleeper hit of the year, racking up multiple nominations including one for the director, M. Night Shyamalan. He became a star overnight. His next film, “Unbreakable” didn’t quite live up to critical expectation although it was profitable for the studio. With his latest feature “SIGNS”, M. Night Shyamalan has brought back the fear genre back with an exceptional performance by Mel Gibson and the rest of the cast.

Graham Ness is a former priest still distraught from the death of his wife six months ago. As he copes with his loss, he takes care of his two children, Morgan (Culkin) and Bo (Breslin) on a big farm outside Philadelphia. Helping him out is his younger brother Merrill (Phoenix), a minor league baseball player. One day, they start to hear noises outside their house and discover a mysterious symbol carved out in the middle of their cornfield. Thinking it’s a prank set by some kids, Graham calls the local police officer (Jones) to check things out. When no answers can be explained, Graham is concerned. When other strange things begin to occur and his kids start coming up with the weirdest reason for it, Graham can’t come up answers.

To say more would be spoiling the fun of seeing this suspenseful film. The atmosphere of fear and anxiety in knowing what going on is constant throughout the film. M. Night Shyamalan has written a slow pace film that will capture the audience’s attention. The writing is clever with a bit of humor to break the tension of fear at times. Gibson, often seen in mostly action films, is resigned here. He is believable as a former priest and father trying to make sense of his wife’s death. Phoenix is adequate as the brother whose statements and expressions are used for comic relief. The kids are phenomenal. Culkin, the youngest of the acting clan, has quite a future ahead of him if he continues to shine with roles. Sci-fi films usually have several reasons for why things occur, and that’s probably the best way to describe this film. One may never get the answer that they seek, but they will be scared out of the wits when searching for one.


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