Mel Gibson and the aliens...
Sometimes its interesting to look back over the years and see where certain people have found themselves. Mel Gibson, for example, has been through numerous scandals since "Signs" was first released in 2002. He has battled abuse, drug, alcohol, and other allegations. Joaquin Phoenix supposedly tried to start a career as a rapper. Rory Culkin, brother to Macaulay Culkin, recently appeared in the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Abigail Breslin grew up to become the witty girl who survives the zombie apocalypse in "Zombieland". Last but not least, M. Night Shyamalan has had mixed reviews for his films, some being successful, and others not so much. Its funny where life takes you sometimes.
"Signs" is my go-to scary alien movie. There are very few scenes in which you can see the actual aliens, and I think that makes the film all the more special. What's worse than fighting an enemy that you know nothing about, including the appearance and motives? When we do catch glimpses of the aliens, they are reptilian, color-changing, and equipped with the ability to emit poison. And they sneer (seriously - look in the reflection of the tv at the end - pause it and you'll see exactly what I'm saying !)
The acting was superb. Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a reverend who has lost his faith following the death of his wife in an accident. Joaquin Phoenix shines as Graham's brother Merrill, a baseball player who never made it into a professional league. Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin are better performers than their years would suggest. Both affect a calm maturity throughout the film that is in keeping with losing their mother and living with a devastated father.
There is a scene in this movie that never fails to frighten me. Its the main reason why I don't watch this movie at night, and why I keep my curtains closed when I go to bed. In the very beginning of the movie Mel Gibson is awakened by Abigail Breslin, who is complaining that there's a monster outside her window. So far its a normal exchange between a parent and a young child. Gibson follows her into her room to tuck her into bed, and they begin discussing how the loss of Colleen (Gibson's wife, Breslin's mom) has affected them both. When Gibson is getting ready to leave his daughter's room, he glances outside the window at the adjacent room. Silhouetted on the roof in the moonlight is a tall, dark, inhumanly slender figure standing stock still. I think that scene will haunt me for the rest of my life. There is something malicious in the way the alien is standing there just watching. Standing so still you can't even believe at first that its alive.
The film focuses on the interaction between the characters and the depth of the plot. There are some philosophical bits in there too, about what kinds of people are in the world and how they react to a crisis. Far from being preachy, this enhances the viewing experience because it leaves you with something deep to think about long after the credits have rolled. Seeing little of the aliens during the film also makes them that much more terrifying when they're glimpsed. You don't get time to get used to how they look.
"Signs" was and is a great film. As alien movies go, I think its the best I've ever seen. Its certainly the most scary - because it deals with an alien invasion on a human scale. And honestly, if that were ever to happen, you'd be worrying about how to take care of your family and what comes after, not worrying about it on a global scale. When all is said and done, the invasion in your front yard is more pressing than what's happening elsewhere, and that's exactly why this movie is terrifying.