The Signal



Magnolia Pictures

NEW YORK -- Although "The Signal" loses strength the more it goes on, this video-shot horror film displaying influences ranging from Stephen King to George A. Romero to innumerable J-horror entries has enough genuine scares and dark humor to merit attention, especially with the inevitable midnight screenings and future video exposure.

The film is divided into three segments -- labeled "transmissions" and directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry, respectively -- that depict the chaos that occurs when static-filled hallucinogenic images suddenly appearing on television screens transform viewers into homicidal maniacs.

The clever (if derivative) opening sequence seems to be from a long-lost 1970s exploitation film, until it becomes apparent that it is merely late-night television fare being ignored by adulterous lovers Ben (Justin Welborn) and Mya (Anessa Ramsey).

Mya returns home to her highly suspicious husband Lewis (AJ Bowen), who has been hanging out with two buddies. Soon after the mysterious signal appears on TV, Lewis picks up a baseball bat and goes postal. The fleeing Mya quickly realizes the phenomenon is widespread as she finds herself being pursued by a number of murder-crazed figures.

The audaciously satirical second section depicts a dinner party gone awry after the hostess (Cheri Christian) kills her husband, and the guests, including Lewis, follow her lead. The third and weakest segment centers on the aftermath of the disaster and Mya's escape from the town (aptly named Terminus).

While the clearly low-budget picture ultimately fails to fully cohere, it displays a stylistic polish and thematic ambition that lifts it far above most similar indie genre efforts. It might not reach the cult status to which it aspires, but it does reveal burgeoning talents on the part of its directorial team.