The F*ckin Black Sheep: Signs (2002)

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Signs (2002)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

In 2002, all SIGNS seemed to point upward for the movie industry’s wunderkind de jure, M. Night Shyamalan. Two years earlier he pulled the cinematic rug out from audiences across the globe with his sneakily imperceptible SIXTH SENSE, and immediately following with UNBREAKABLE, gave us the thought provoking meditation on what it would be like to learn you were indeed the real life version of Superman. Dude could do know wrong, right? Well…

As M. Night's new flick SPLIT nears release, we’re about to make a case as to why, though generally well received by critics and audiences alike (now and upon release), SIGNS is not only a F*ckin Black Sheep, but the wasteful remains of such…amounting to little more than a fetid, smoldering pile of poop!

One of the most exasperating things about SIGNS, and many M. Night films for that matter, is just how promisingly it starts, only to fade into utter lunacy. Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, proud but faith-tested patriarch of a farming family in rural Pennsylvania. The character quirks he and his children exhibit– asthmatic Morgan (Rory Culkin), failed ball player Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), water-collecting Bo (Abigail Breslin) – at first give the movie a feel of homespun authenticity that really sets the tone of things to come. When the pet-animals in town lash out violently, seemingly all at once, the arrival of giant, global crop circles seem to indicate a creepy correlation. Strange lights begin appearing, shadowy figures materialize, an air of mystifying intrigue lays heavy. What the hell is going on?

But as things unfold, the more we see and hear, the less believable it all becomes. In opinion, that very feeling of breath-held curiosity and being on the edge of a major discovery early on is completely undone as the movie calculates uneven second and third acts. As for the sights, it’s astounding how tired, trampled and non-threateningly unimaginative the visual designs of the aliens in SIGNS come off as…green, dark-eyed and big-headed. Are they supposed to be the mental projections of ten year old Breslin and Culkin? They look like it. And aren’t very scare in doing so.

As for the sounds, that schmaltzy “swing away” line that’s so forcibly shoehorned into a ham-fisted payoff it’s embarrassing to even think about, is also indicative of another major flaw in Night’s script. Dude’s tie-ins are too contrived. Same deal with Bo’s water glass collection. What seemed an innocent idiosyncrasy comes into play all too conveniently in the end to prove as a foil against what…water-averse aliens? (speaking of, don’t get us started on those tinfoil hats). It’s weak, preciously plotted and totally unconvincing. Same goes for Morgan’s asthma inhaler and that lame cash in. And again, all of this sappy late-act family redemption business tends to detract from the sheer mystery and intrigue the first half hour of the movie grasps you with.

And what about Graham’s sense of restored faith in the end? What a crock of diapers! Remember, as the movie opens, we learn of Graham losing his religion after his wife was killed in an auto accident. However, after confronting the man who crashed into her (in a woefully ill-advised cameo by M. Night himself) and experiencing firsthand extreme alien contact, somehow his sense of faith in the almighty lord his renewed? How? If Earth was created in 6 days by God, how the hell can anyone account for the presence of unearthly extraterrestrials? God created them too? Or, has Graham’s piety been restored after seeing his son Morgan suddenly come back from the dead. You know, after almost dying from a stress-induced asthma attack, just as Graham thinks he lost his son, boom, a miracle transpires. Um, no. Seriously, how often did Graham cram medication down the poor kid’s throat during the film. Quite a few. How then can a Father so dependent on scientific medicine to revive his own son be so blindly faithful in the end? It’s silly and unfoundedly nonsensical.

Not to pile on too hard, but since many have praised the performances in the film, we must admit that none of us around here consider this to be either Mel Gibson or Joaquin Phoenix’s finest hour. These dudes are tremendous actors, we’d all agree, yet because of the crippling lack of humor coupled with the mawkish finale, Gibson and Phoenix tend to sink to the level of the substandard material rather than elevate it.

The Overall Dee-cision: SIGNS was an insipid, grossly over-hyped marker of things to come from M. Night Shyamalan. Far too concerned with twists, tie-ins, manipulative plotting and late-act shock tactics, M. Night seemed to forget about the most crucial thing for a movie to be – believable. SIGN, while starting quite well, unspools to prove most certainly not.



Source: AITH

About the Author

5380 Articles Published

Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.