Historical repost from January 2010.
Signs (2002) — written, directed, produced — by M. Night Shyamalan
Signs is not a steaming pile of dog shit. It’s a pile of dog shit that has been frozen over in a cold Philadelphia winter, pissed on by a rival dog, and slowly eroded by hungry flies. It’s really incredible that Shyamalan could spew this 106-minute-long piece of shit out after he wrote and directed The Sixth Sense. It really blows your mind, doesn’t it? Should I start with the unfair casting of Joaquin Phoenix, the tawdry, predictable aliens, or the sickening espousal of blind faith and coincidences/miracles?
(1) Little did Joaquin know in 2002 that only two years later he would star in an even bigger vortex of shit by M. Night Shyamalan: The Village (otherwise known as: the movie that was so egregiously bad it actually made my nachos taste like suck). Joaquin in Signs is the obligatory failure-brother: a sports star that couldn’t make it big. He set five home run records in the minor leagues and hit a 507-foot home run. Likely story, M. Night. Maybe you don’t know that Vladimir Guerrero, or, as I like to call him, Predator With A 34-Inch Stick of Wood, hit a baseball 501 feet in the 2008 home run derby. To have your backcountry yokel subordinate-brother-stereotype hit a baseball 507 feet is, frankly, a statement in the realm of denying the theory of gravity. Which I encourage you to do, prove, and apply to yourself. The planet earth will cheer in unison as your cameo-happy face oozes terror, your vocal chords struggling fruitlessly against the vacuum of space, your body drifting outwards into the void.
We live in a universe in which it is a brute fact that no human being can hit a baseball farther than Vladimir Guerrero. This simple error of logic by Shyamalan removes any believability from a movie that rests entirely on the premise that it could theoretically happen to invoke terror. But, then again, I already had to suspend my disbelief to painful levels as soon as I read on the movie’s Netflix sleeve that Mel Gibson would be gracing the screen. I would later read that Shyamalan saw his performance in action movies and thought his emotion should be harnessed in something more significant–so he had his emotion harnessed to grieve for a wife who was severed in half, yet still alive, pinned to a tree by a pickup truck. As if this were not farcical enough, she was just “taking a walk.” Who the fuck walks in the dark? Idiots, that’s who. And Mel Gibson received $25 million for his contrived role, compared to Joaquin’s paltry $1 million. You’ve got to love it when the scum of the earth join forces.
(2) Let’s move on to the aliens. Or should I call them “tall humans with skin that can change colors.” Simply stunning. My reaction to the sudden scene when Mel Gibson looks out the window and sees a vaguely humanoid form standing on his barn was drastic, that’s for sure. I didn’t jump out of my chair or yell, though; I projectile vomited all over my friend’s copy of The Village. Which actually worked out well, because I was trying to figure out a way to get rid of that disservice to directing without offending my friend (He doesn’t want it back now that I threw up fried catfish on it). I projectile vomited because your imagination is so weak, M. Weak like your casting choices (Rory Culkin as Gibson’s son kept reminding me of Home Alone because he looks exactly like his brother), your plot development, etc. The entire impetus behind the alien invasion was just so ridiculous, I couldn’t help sending you an email referring to War of the Worlds. In that movie–you may have seen it–the aliens harvest human beings to eat them–Okay, understandable. In Signs, the aliens kill humans with poison gas and then…harvest them for what? You don’t just harvest something. The word harvest connotes a later use, which you, in your infinite wisdom, failed to provide. The ambiguity might have been frightening if you hadn’t already taken my suspension of disbelief and sodomized it with a splintered 2×4. And you copied H.G. Wells again, with the “primitive weapon” solution to the invasion…but you substituted water for microbes. We’ll return to this dumb concept in the next paragraph.
(3) You are just so fucking sure that coincidences are “meant to be,” aren’t you, M? The fact that the kid who is poisoned with gas by the aliens doesn’t die because his asthma closed his lungs, the wife utters last words “Swing Away” to the brother who just so happens to be standing next to a baseball bat when the alien takes the kid, the daughter has a total OCD problem with leaving half-finished glasses of water around, which, obviously, kills the aliens, is not a coincidence, no matter how hard you try. It’s just statistically improbable. Nothing happens “for a reason,” you simplistic, lazy fuck. And by the way, stop saying “for a reason,” to everyone who says it. You’re confusing “reason” with “design,” which are two completely different concepts. “A reason” would be the cause that affects a situation; a “design” implies that the situation has been deliberately orchestrated in such a way. And then you go from this to justifying belief in not only a deity, which I could stomach, but a deity that actually gives a fuck if you whine to it and places everyone in odd coincidences for its own amusement. If God loves coincidences so much, why doesn’t he entertain himself with Scrabble or something—or better yet, orchestrate the falling of an immensely heavy object on M. Night Shyamalan? By the way, who says that God (in the unlikely event of its existence) would fight for mankind and not the aliens? That’s a fuckin’ dubious claim, to say the least, and arrogance of extreme proportions at worst.
(4) As I watched Signs, I had the eerie feeling that it felt like a Hitchcock movie–except inversely enjoyable. Turns out, M. Night Shyamalan wasn’t going to put a score to this movie, but was inspired by Psycho to do so. I could tell the first time the music blared out during the fucking opening credits. Only difference is, M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t know how to appropriately use a score. To make matters worse, he’s obviously infatuated with cameos of himself, like Hitchcock. Again, the difference is that Hitchcock knew how to shoot cameos as easter eggs, while M. Night Shyamalan actually projects himself into characters that are important to the plot, concomitantly shitting on the same plot with his 8th grade acting skills.
Let me save you some time: Wildly unoriginal aliens invade, stereotypical characters act predictably, M. Night Shyamalan convolutes logic to bring Signs to an unbelievably ridiculous conclusion.