The Signal

The Signal Information

The Signal is an independent science fiction horror / psychological thriller film written and directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry and produced by Alexander A. Motlagh"?four filmmakers who have been collaborating since 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia. The movie was completed for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival on a budget of only $50,000 and shot over the course of 13 days.

The Signal is told in three parts, in which all telecommunication devices broadcast only a mysterious "Signal" turning people into psychopaths. The film is broken up into three chapters ("transmissions"), each of which had different directors during shooting. Each part manifests elements of the following genres: splatter film, black comedy, and a post-apocalyptic love story.

The film premiered January 22, 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, and released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 10, 2008. It received a mostly positive critical reception.



The film opens, showing that Mya (Anessa Ramsey) is cheating on her husband Lewis (A. J. Bowen) with a man named Ben (Justin Welborn). Ben attempts to convince Mya to leave the city with him, but she remains noncommittal. As Mya exits, Ben turns the television on, showing a bizarre, psychedelic sequence of images. Mya begins to listen to a compact disc given to her by Ben, but she is menaced by men who are acting strangely in a parking garage. When she reaches her apartment building, she finds people acting strangely, as well. Unknown to Mya, the Signal, a static-like interference that is coming through the television, radio and telephone amplifies each person's negative emotional traits, causing them to act irrationally and, in most cases, violently.

Transmission 1

Once inside her apartment, Lewis and two friends, Jerry and Rod (Sahr Ngaujah) attempt to fix the TV, but Lewis, the first to react to the Signal, beats Jerry to death with a baseball bat over a minor argument. Mya escapes in panic, leaving Rod and Lewis in a struggle. After escaping, she finds the whole building in chaos with people killing each other. Mya hides out in the nearby apartment until morning. When she decides to leave and re-enter her home, she finds an unconscious Lewis, bound to a chair with duct-tape. He awakens only to see her leave him behind and exit into the hall listening to Ben's compact disc, but encounters Rod who drags her into a janitor's closet. He then tells her of the night he spent trying to survive in the apartment complex. It becomes evident that the Signal affects each person differently, and that there is the possibility that Rod is also crazy, though he seems to largely have control of his own judgment. Together, they escape, and attempt to drive to safety, but after being shot by a policewoman and almost left behind by Mya, Rod turns on the radio in anger, exposing himself to the Signal. He goes violently insane and attacks Mya, who crashes the car. Rod is incapacitated and trapped in the vehicle, and Mya flees, telling a passerby named Clark (Scott Poythress) that she is going to the train station to leave Terminus.

Transmission 2

The story turns to Ben, who finds the duct-taped Lewis and loosens his bonds. Lewis knocks Ben unconscious and puts his body in the back of a pest control van. At a nearby apartment, Anna (Cheri Christian) is setting up for a New Year party. The Signal has affected her so that her dutifulness as a homemaker is amplified, and despite having killed her crazed husband in self-defense, she has continued planning for the party as if nothing has happened. Clark, who is her neighbor and a conspiracy theorist, soon arrives. The two begin attempting to figure out what is happening, and Clark also admits that he had decapitated Rod, who attacked him after being freed from the car wreck. Eventually Lewis makes his way to the apartment, under the mistaken belief that Mya has been there because her car is crashed outside. At first, Lewis befriends Anna and Clark, and they convince themselves that none of them have been affected by the Signal, and that they have to band together in order to survive. Lewis, whose violent and paranoid tendencies are clearly amplified by the Signal, immediately kills Anna's niece, Laura (Lindsey Garrett), who arrives at the door seeking help. He dismisses the act as self-defense, but Clark convinces him not to attack the next arrival, Jim (Chad McKnight) who is apparently oblivious of the situation. While Anna hallucinates that Clark is her husband, Lewis hallucinates that Jim is Ben, taunting him. He beats Jim to death, then attacks Anna, spraying her with insecticide until she is blind. Once he realizes she knows nothing about Mya's whereabouts, Lewis forces her to ingest the poison, killing her. He then exposes Clark to the Signal in order to convince him to tell him where Mya had gone. Ben, having woken up and freed himself from Lewis's van, enters the apartment and attacks Lewis with the pesticide canister, knocking him out.

Transmission 3

Lewis wakes up and follows Ben and Clark. He attempts to kill them in a tool shed, but they fight him off and escape. After Ben convinces Clark that the Signal is a lie, thus breaking its effect on him, Clark informs Ben where Mya was headed. Ben and Clark make a run through the now mostly-dead city and arrive at the train station. There, they find Mya tied to a chair, being forced to watch the Signal by Lewis, who attacks them and strangles Clark until he is unconscious. Ben then resorts to using Lewis's own paranoia against him, eventually tricking Lewis into believing that their roles are reversed, and that Lewis is the one man he hates most: Mya's lover. Lewis punches a signal-broadcasting TV, in a frustrated rage, electrocuting himself.

The story ends ambiguously. A series of scenes showing Ben and Mya escaping with Clark, stocking up on supplies, then Ben and Mya going separate ways from Clark, suggesting they have succeeded. However, the next scene reveals Mya still tied to the chair, seemingly catatonic due the prolonged exposure to the Signal. Ben places Mya's headphones on her, and she closes her eyes, a tear rolling down her cheek, before the credits appear. Whether this is the final reality, or a flashback before Ben and Mya's escape from the city, is left for the viewer to decide.


After long delay due to the search for a song to replace an unlicensed cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" by Jon Thomas Hall in the soundtrack, the film was theatrically released on February 22, 2008. The song finally used is a cover of Joy Division's "Atmosphere" by Ola Podrida. As a promotion for the film, a new short podcast was released bi-weekly through a horror film news site Bloody Disgusting.

On February 23, 2008, two men were stabbed by a stranger in a Fullerton, California movie theatre during a showing of The Signal. One suffered non life-threatening injuries to his arm, while the other suffered a lung puncture.

The home media release includes an audio commentary from the directors, deleted scenes, the making-of featurette, the complete short film The Hap Hapgood Story that was shown on TV in the introduction sequence of The Signal, as well as three short (each around four-minute long) additional "transmissions" featuring different characters and locations ("Transmission 14: Technical Difficulties", "Transmission 23: The Return" and "Transmission 37: Crosstown Traffic").


The film received 57% of positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with consensus that "The Signal is gruesome, funny, and has big thoughts about society, but those disparate elements fail to come together convincingly." Its average rating at Metacritic is 63/100 (generally favorable reviews).

Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote that while the episodes vary in their quality (the first being "by far the most impressive"), "the filmmaking stays sharp and the acting maintains its ferocity." On the other hand, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called it be a poor mix of Poltergeist, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Re-Animator, Shivers and Shaun of the Dead.

In 2012, Total Film ranked it as the 39th best indie horror film, adding that if The Signal had a bigger budget "it would have had more room to explore its big ideas."

See also

  • Cell
  • The Crazies

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