Signs (Vista Series)


Mel Gibson as Father Graham Hess
Joaquin Phoenix as Merrill Hess
Rory Culkin as Morgan Hess
Abigail Breslin as Bo Hess
Cherry Jones as Officer Caroline Paski
M. Night Shyamalan as Ray
Patricia Kalember as Colleen Hess
Jose L. Rodriguez as Radio Host

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes
Night’s First Alien Film
Six “Making of” features on the origins of the writing of the script, building sets, effects, scoring, marketing, and making the film.
Storyboards – Multi-Angle Feature

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Running Time: 106 Mins.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
THX Certified
English and French Audio Tracks

Graham Hess is a widower who lives on a small Pennsylvania farm with his younger brother and two children. A former reverend, he has lost his faith and renounced religion after the tragic death of his wife. His life begins to take a twist into the surreal when a crop circle mysteriously appears in his cornfield. At first believing it was made by pranksters, he soon begins to wonder if there’s more to it. Little does he realize that what he discovers about the circles may save his family.

Rated PG-13 for some frightening moments.

The Movie:
I reviewed this movie upon its theatrical release earlier this year. You can see my original review here.

Shyamalan definitely keeps his title as the master of suspense with “Signs”. He’s able to take the simplest everyday things and scare the crap out of you with them. After seeing this film, you will never view a cornfield, baby monitor, or scratching noise in your house the same again.

If you’ve seen the commercials, you know that aliens play a key role in the film. Shyamalan is able to totally keep you on the edge of your seat by showing nothing more of them than shadows or claws. What also is amazing is that the aliens are, for the most part, seen in the full daylight. He doesn’t always have the scary parts take place at night. Daytime isn’t the safe haven that it usually is in a scary movie. This film also uses the theater sound system effectively by having sound effects of the aliens skittering over the house move all around the theater. It will totally freak you out. It’s amazing how Shyamalan makes an effective alien invasion movie by hardly showing them at all. He knows that your imagination will create infinitely more terrifying images than he can ever come up with on the screen.

This film takes some of the best elements of War of the Worlds and Close Encounters and repackages them for new audiences. It also combines several elements of UFO mythology into a cohesive tale. One of the most notable things about it is that it tells a very personal story. In the face of a global event, we concern ourselves only with what’s happening in this particular family. We see everything from their point of view and from their isolated world. However, the true heart of this film’s story is a man’s restoration of faith in God and rebuilding bonds with his family. If you’re looking for a good scare and an interesting twist on the whole alien invasion concept, this is one you’ll want to check out.

After “The Sixth Sense,” everyone expects Shyamalan’s movies to have some earth-shattering twist at the end. With “Signs,” there’s no major revelation at the end as you might hope for. Despite lacking that hoped for twist, the movie is still a little confusing and it may not necessarily answer all of your questions. Most of my unanswered questions involved what was happening beyond the Hess’ house. But since that wasn’t the focus of the film, my questions were never sufficiently addressed. However, the more time I think about “Signs” after seeing it, the more I think the ending was OK. I guess I was expecting something more dramatic.

The Extras:
The extras on this DVD are pretty good. They’re more than a casual movie viewer would ask for, but less than what die hard DVD fans will want.

Deleted Scenes – A handful of deleted scenes are included on this disc. Most are under 30 seconds long. There’s a shot of Graham and Merrill talking about the death of Colleen. Another scene shows a dead bird on the side of the road. Another shows Colleen rocking her children to sleep. These are rather mundane and not missed from the film. However, the last scene is a bit more powerful and lasts about 5 minutes long. It is in the climax of the film when the aliens get in the house. We discover that they first get in through the attic. Graham and Merrill frantically try and block the attic door. It’s a pretty tense scene and will creep you out. Graham then continues his stories about each of his remaining family members. He tells the third story about when he accidentally dislocated his little brother’s arm. Cutting the scenes help pace the film climax better, but they’re an interesting addition to the story.

Night’s First Alien Film – Shyamalan likes to include clips from his old movies as a kid, and he does so on this DVD as well. His film features a toy robot, dressed in an alien monster mask, pursuing young Shyamalan around his parents living room. Though only a minute long, it provides a few good chuckles. Maybe there’s hope for young filmmakers yet.

Six “Making of” Features – This is one long documentary on the making of the film broken up into six parts. It is also the highlight of the extras. Throughout all the features you get a real sense of how M. Night Shyamalan is a maturing filmmaking genius. I began to appreciate more how he was into every aspect of making this film and his thought process behind it. From the writing of the script to the construction of the farmhouse to the creation of the effects, this feature covers it all. One segment talks about how the movie began filming the day after September 11, 2001. It’s a rather poignant moment and you can see how it had an impact on the scenes they filmed that day. You’ll definitely want to check this out if you’re a fan of the film.

As good as these extras were, I was hoping for more. This film could have really used a director’s commentary. I feel like Shyamalan could deliver some additional insight on the aliens and why they are on earth. There’s a lot that you miss in the film. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see a DVD special edition of “Signs” at some point in the future.

The Bottom Line:
If you missed this one in the theaters, you’ll definitely want to check it out. However, you might have mixed feelings about adding it to your collection if they’re going to do another edition.