The Signal – Playing with genres

‘Films I own but have not yet watched because reasons’ – Part 2

So. I have a big pile of films that I haven’t got round to watching because they variously looked bad, confusing, or just not as good as films that I could have watched instead. This is the second in the series of reviews of these films.


I went into this film knowing nothing about it, kind of live reviewing again.  We’ll see how it goes.

The opening establishes our characters as techy hacker types, one of whom is disabled. The director seems to be aware of the ridicule levelled at the portrayals of hackers in films such as, uh, Hackers, and so it involves some actually techy terms – like Defcon, IP and Linux.

OK, I’m actually moderately impressed that they bothered to do this, but still, we get the typical 2 minute hacking scene instead of 6 hours of two dudes drinking Mountain Dew and looking at 2 lines of code. Fair enough, compromise is important.

23 mins in: OK, I am officially gripped.  this film is actually good so far. The sound design, in particular, has been excellent throughout, setting a refreshingly minimalistic tone. The camera work supports the sound design, the teen romance elements haven’t been annoying, and suspense is definitely occurring. It’s going well so far.

Well! Just as I typed that last sentence and settled back…EMERGENCY!

Nothing’s ever easy is it? I finally find a good film and the downstairs neighbour’s burglar alarm goes off at maximum volume at a quarter to nine at night. We don’t know how we silenced it, only that it finally stopped. Emergency over.  Please resume watching films.

See? Blogging can be rough, man.

Hmm, it just occurred to me that a particularly loud signal interrupted my viewing of The Signal, just as they were starting to talk about ‘the’ signal. Signal-ception? Enough of that, back to the film….Or, perhaps not.

To be frank with you, this review really hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would.

I got completely into this film.  I enjoyed the pacing, I enjoyed the acting, and I thought it was well executed.  I’m actually not sure how I avoided hearing about it until now.  So, rather than go through it piece by piece as I had originally intended, I stopped typing and watched it properly.  Furthermore, I don’t want to reveal any of the plot – even with big fat spoiler tags on. If you want to know what happens, you should watch it.

This film is, in my opinion, very good. It is an interesting twist on the sci-fi genre, and as such deserves to sit alongside other excellent modern and slightly off-piste takes, like Moon. I think its kind of a nice mid way point between District 9 and Inception, certainly in terms of the aesthetics of the stranger things we get to see.

The ending is slightly left field, although it’s not like it’s that bit in Interstellar where Matthew McConaughey is rearranging time through a magical bookshelf. If you can handle that, you can handle this.  Either way,  I certainly didn’t see it coming, and I liked it.


I think you should watch this film. The sci-fi tag might put you off, but its a slow burner that plays with the genre enough to entertain people who might, for example, hate Star Trek.

4 Implants out of 5



Dark Star – In space, no one can hear a beachball attack a man with a mop.

So Dark Star was on recently and, remembering the end scene and a general sense of confusion from when I watched it many years ago, I sky+’d it to show to my girlfriend later.

Unfortunately, there’s never really a time when most girls really feel like sitting down to watch sci-fi films from the 70’s, and my girlfriend falls into this category – probably because of all those times I forced her to watch star wars. So i resigned myself to watching it on my own. This, it turns out, was probably for the best.

Because this film is dated.  And I don’t mean in the same way as earlier series of Red Dwarf look a bit dated because Kryten was a bit shit, but in the way that 8 bit video games look a bit dated.  At one point the ship (white triangle) while racing through space (black square) hits an asteroid field (3 blue lines with grey bits), the computer then raises a shield (blue circle) and protects the crew (blue light), all while I laugh my ass off and marvel at the fact that Star Wars came out a mere 3 years later. Astounding.

But the effects are not what this film needs to be judged on.  This film needs to be judged on its use of dialogue, pacing, humour, and absurdity. This is because if you judge it on these things, Dark Star becomes awesome. In fact, this film looks almost like a prototype for the excellent Red Dwarf, as well as providing a few Hitchhikers Guide moments – I genuinely expected the bomb to be called Marvin.

Now, I’m not sure how terrible it would be to be stuck with the same 4 people for 20+ years on a spaceship with sentient bombs, aliens, and almost nothing else, but imagine it would suck, Hard. What might make this worse? How about an accident that destroys ALL the toilet paper? How about if that alien beachball makes you chase it into a lift shaft then moves your escape plank? how about a computer that the crew ignore when it’s telling them important things? what about a sentient bomb with an anti-authoritarian rebellious streak? what about if one of the crew members had those annoying joke pairs of glasses and a rubber chicken that he thought was funny? Worst of all, imagine its a 70’s spaceship so all the crew are required to wear enormous beards.

I’m sure you agree that the above scenario sounds fucking awful. Now imagine that you also miss surfing, and that there’s only one place in the universe that you know of with oceans. Dark Star explores the resultant cabin fever. Make no mistake, these characters are all either slowly losing their minds, or recovering from the last time that they did. These are people as deprived of social interaction and, paradoxically, solitude as the space around them is deprived of oxygen. Depressing, eh? Moreover, these characters are flying around the universe destroying planets. Yeah, that’s right, they are essentially piloting a Death Star (coincidence?). The planet destroying comes from the sentient bombs, who don’t get on particularly well with the ship’s computer, following a fault in the circuit that controls the signal that tells the bomb to deploy. Obviously, bombs want to explode. It’s in their nature. So how exactly would you persuade the bomb not to blow up if it REALLY wanted to? Dark Star brilliantly addresses this problem with existentialism. This alone should be all the reason you need to watch this film.

So. Dark Star has the potential to be a slightly depressing film, content wise, but after I’d pushed the yellow button of destruction on the sky remote, I was smiling for a few reasons:

1: Earth can suck sometimes. it’s all taxes, and jobs, and fucking blah fucking blah.     But at least I’m not stuck on a spaceship in the above situation.
2: it’s always a good time when a dude gets chased by a mop wielding beachball.
3: Surfing straight into the sun would be an excellent way to die.

Dark Star is awesome, go and watch it.  5 spacebeards out of 5