Still working it in the name of blood, guts and celluloid.
#23 – The Signal (2008): A long time ago, I made a stupid purchase. It was a DVD box set that consisted of a bunch of crappy horror movies. Most of them were, well, crappy. There was one that stood out, however. 1973’s pseudo-zombie flick Messiah of Evil. Basically, it’s about a town full of decent enough folks that become flesh-eating wackos when the moon is full. Sure, it has elements of a zombie movie, but the fact that the monsters were just regular people who collectively went crazy was a bit more unsettling. The Signal is a lot like that—only done with better acting and special effects; and instead of a full moon, it’s a mysterious signal that is broadcast via phones, radio and television that turns the people of Terminus into lunatics.
The film is broken up into three different segments that portray the dreadful events from three different perspectives. Each segment is also tonally different, making you feel like you’ve just watched three unique short films that just happen to involve the same characters in the same terrible situation. For example, the second segment is full of blacker than black humor, while the other two delve more into visceral and psychological horror.
It’s frenetic, intense, and filled with great performances from unknown actors and actresses. Not to mention the fact that, deep within its cold black heart, it’s a pretty decent love story—a perfect combo for an under-the-radar horror film.
Best Moment: I’d usually call SPOILER ALERT here, but it looks like this scene’s right there on the damn poster, so it’s your call, folks. After quite literally going through hell for his lady Mya (Anessa Ramsey), Ben (Justin Welborn) finds that she has been strapped to a chair and forced to endure the televised signal that’s making everyone nuts. He’s just bested her psychotic husband (AJ Bowen—reminded me of a murderous and bearded Ryan Reynolds), and is desperately trying to get her to come back to reality. He puts headphones over her ears so she can hear the alt-rock love song that represents their awesome and adulterous love for each other. She flinches, takes a breath of fresh air, and looks up at her bloody gentleman lover. Roll credits.
I’ve seen this film before, but I liked it so much that I watched it again in honor of my movie challenge. As far as horror films that swerve into slapstick—or “splatstick” as I once heard Bruce Campbell call it—this is one of the best.
It takes the horror cliché that involves attractive undergraduates who opt for a weekend getaway in the woods only to be murdered by deranged hillbillies and twists it by casting two hillbillies as misunderstood heroes. Granted, there’s still a lot of bloodshed, but it comes from both the stupidity of said undergraduates along with a few unresolved anger issues.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine, the dude who made Reaper funny)—the hillbillies—have just purchased a fixer-upper of a cabin, and are looking forward to a weekend of beer drinking and fish catching, when a wild group of college students rolls through town. Having seen one too many horror movies, the college students are immediately terrified of Tucker and Dale, and it’s this misguided fear that leads them into several dangerous situations that cause them to die in gruesome ways. Of course these deaths keep getting blamed on our eponymous heroes, which forces them into an inevitable conflict with, you know, evil.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil fits in the same morgue as Scream and Cabin in the Woods for its ability to deconstruct and satirize common horror tropes and reconstruct them into an original (and often hilarious) film.
Best Moment: At the same moment that College Dude D is making his way closer to our heroes’ cabin, Tucker is in the back cutting lumber with a chainsaw. Unbeknownst to Tucker, the tree he’s currently working on is home to an angry beehive. As the insects spill out and attack Tucker, he stumbles from behind the cabin screaming and waving his chainsaw to ward off the bees. College Dude D, seeing a maniacal hillbilly with a chainsaw, loses it and books it into the woods only to impale himself on an overturned tree. Aside from several bee stings, Tucker is unharmed.
Next on the ol’ chopping block: Beyond the Black Rainbow and Pontypool. I’m expecting a fairly high level of weirding out and self-loathing with these two. Don’t miss any of the action!