View Full Version : Living Dead vs. Signs

Chris Knipp
08-09-2002, 10:34 PM
I was certainly younger but I don't think I was any more impressionable than I am now, but you're right, the subtle approach can be very effective. I think NLD had less effect on you recently because you didn't see it in a theater. And you'd already seen it. I don't know. I admit I have not seen NLD recently. Maybe this means horror thrillers have a shelf life. But it got to me at the time way, way more than Signs did, not because I was young but because it was horrible, and Signs didn't horrify me, though Signs is in some ways an impressive movie, and hugely more professional than NLD. Blair Witch Project was pretty scary, even though you knew it was fake, and it cost nothing. So I don't think budget and maybe even directorial skill are important factors in making a movie scary. Not always, anyway. Hitchcock had tremendous directorial skill and his movies were scary too. There's no clearcut rule.

I'm just surprised people find Signs scary, because the alien menace is so poorly established in the movie. It's just roughly sketched in. In the worldwide terms. I know there are a lot of noises and stuff, but a global alien attack has to be established by more than a few TV and radio spots. I think Shyamalan was copying '50's style in that. I don't think he cared about the alien stuff. He was interested in Mel Gibson's character's re-conversion to faith.

08-11-2002, 09:03 PM
The real suspense in the film was Mel Gibson's journey into his soul. Even after the aliens were vanquished I was on the edge of my seat. Gibson's performance was exceptional, I still remember the multiple complex reaction on his face when Shyamalan is trying to ask Gibson for forgiveness.

08-29-2002, 11:54 PM
The previews were far more intriguiging than the movie! Surely if someone can take Mel Gibson seriously it would help, and I think both he and the director were making an earnest effort (can Mel Gibson's performance in "Ransom" ever be comnpletely forgiven?), but what a garbled mish-mash of mixed messages! Journey into his..soul? Uh, yeah, go that alright, was Mel being 'punished' for having to modify his interpretation of his faith? Weird message, if that's what it was...
The aliens? While I agree the low-tech approach can work, and has worked countless times, there was something so goofy about these elaborate 'crop circle' messages that amounted to nothing, at least for us viewers ...would it have been that hard to make up (since crop circles are 'made up' by design!) some quirky discovery like 'aha, this geometric pattern means they'll invade Egypt next' ? Though that wouldn't really help, I would have liked a little more background on these awesome and evil outsiders..
A movie that poses as a spiritual quest, but has to use a baseball bat to find 'resolution' scares me more than the goofball acting Mel Gibson excels in.
The children were good, though the preacher's son seemed awfully bitter and hateful...Thank God it was "just a movie"!

Chris Knipp
08-30-2002, 02:21 AM
I'd have to agree that the looking into the soul element in retrospect is not so easy to take seriously as it seemed at the time. This still seems to me to be due, though, not to any problem with Mel Gibson, but to a screenplay that hangs a religious crisis story onto an alien invasion story and doesn't develop either fully enough. Maybe this is a transitional movie for Shyamalan toward pure drama, something more thoroughly character-driven and naturalistic. He still remains a very talented guy who makes powerful use of the cinematic tools, can hold an audience, and bears watching. His mainstream pop sensibility is just a given.

08-30-2002, 03:29 AM
I have yet to see a major reviewer give Gibson anything less that accolades for his performance. I thought his performance added to the suspense of the film, because unlike Bruce Willis in Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" he was never smug or sure of himself. His "uncomfortable-ness" led to the audience being uncomfortable. Well one man's Laurence Olivier is another man's William Shatner...

08-30-2002, 11:26 AM
Originally posted by stevetseitz
I have yet to see a major reviewer give Gibson anything less that accolades for his performance. I thought his performance added to the suspense of the film, because unlike Bruce Willis in Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" he was never smug or sure of himself. His "uncomfortable-ness" led to the audience being uncomfortable. Well one man's Laurence Olivier is another man's William Shatner...

: ) Great point! I'd have to say, though, at least Shatner was playing in a cartoon/sci-fi/small-screen environment, which made him more 'palatable'!
As far as what "major reviewers" say, well, uhm, so what? Aren't you here to express your own opinions, or to mimic what 'the big boys' tell you to think? Isn't the point of such a forum as this to express your own impressions & thoughts - how often do you agree with 'major' or even 'minor' reviewers, anyway? I very often find agreement and in equal portions, disagreement, with said major-league reviewers...It's clear that Gibson was changing styles and making an effort to appear sincere. But you're right, it's a personal thing, he looks goofy to me and playing straight seemes to make the goofiness worse.
I'm not 100% certain that 'major reviewers' are always at complete liberty to express themselves - hence the great opportunity to read & write striaght-from-the-hip reviews here!

Chris Knipp
08-30-2002, 12:47 PM
The whole trouble with Mel Gibson in "Signs," if trouble there be, is that he's Mel Gibson--he has a history we can't forget, as with all major movie stars, which he has become, and he's an actioner guy, not a drama guy. Personally I think he did an excellent job, except for being awfully solemn and humorless almost thoughout. We needed the humor that Joaquin Phoenix and the kids provided and we could have used more humor from Gibson. This kind of thing is larger than life, it's not realistic, it's all a game in which we play Let's pretend Mel Gibson is a real person and not a big movie tough-guy actioner movie star from Australia. Shyamalan is doomed, so to speak, to play this kind of game, because he works at that level, in the big-time pop Hollywood movie world now, unlike Todd Field, for example, the director of "In the Bedroom," who used some male actors (discounting Sissy Spacek, who's famous) we're not that familiar with. ONe reason Tom Wilkinson worked so well as the father is that he was relatively unfamiliar. It's fair to say that Bruce Willis is a better actor than Mel Gibson, but he too has an action history, though he had given nuanced and interesting performances before "The Sixth Sense." But (1) people will go out to see a movie with Mel Gibson, (2) people like Mel Gibson, and (3) people identify with Mel Gibson, and that's why a director like Shyamalan wants to use him in a movie. Half the fun of mainstream movies (and there's still a lot of fun in them) is playing that game of identifying with the stars and watching them (1) play themselves, or, alternatively, (2) play away from type. It was such a lark watching John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction" because we never forgot for a minute that that was who they were, but we still got off into the new, fun roles they were playing, and the panache with which they delivered Tarentino's over-the-top dialogue.

08-30-2002, 01:31 PM
Agree with Chris. Theres something inescapable about watching Mel Gibson in a role. Youre constantly aware of his other movies, namely Lethal Weapon(s), and consequently cant possibly view him with 100% attention to his new character.

"In the bedroom" was an excellent example. I think "Lonestar" is another great, non-star packed film that benefits from having unrecognizeables.

I certainly dont hope for a day when there are no movie stars, nor would I say that actors shouldnt try for new roles, but some movies will suffer from the need to sell $50 million in tickets. And filmmakers who enter that arena will be expected to do so. In my mind it creates insurmountable obstacles in creating a believeable narrative.

08-30-2002, 02:51 PM
.....BECAUSE of his pedigree in other less serious action movies.

Hitchcock did this all the time. By using an known actor or even an "icon" like Jimmy Stewart in "Vertigo" does the viewer suffer because we think of Jimmy Stewart as "George Bailey" from "It's a Wonderful Life"?. Of course not. The argument is a straw man.

Gibson is a movie star because of his likability and talents. He's certainly not Hollywood's sweetheart because of his politics. If you look at some of his best work: "The Year of Living Dangerously", "The Bounty", "Mrs. Soffell", "Hamlet", "Forever Young", and "Braveheart" you'll find that before Gibson was manic-cliched "borderline-burnout" cop he was serious actor and aspiring director.

Oh, and to whoever said Bruce Willis was a better actor I have two words for you "Hudson Hawk".