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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Animated menus
Signs (Rental)
Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 102 mins . M . PAL


M. Night Shyamalan exploded onto mainstream cinema screens with the 1999 box office smash The Sixth Sense. Then, in the next year, the name on everyone’s lips returned with the thriller Unbreakable. Two years in the making, and with the public thinking another one-hit-wonder had come and gone, the teaser trailers for Signs came out drawing in the public's attention all over again. While nothing can really top the surprise of The Sixth Sense, Signs can proudly stand next to the 1999 thriller with enough content and sentimentality to keep all audiences glued to the screen for its 102-minute duration. For the “popcorn junkies”, this horror film is sure to please, and for the “film buffs”, this drama is sure to reach your soft spot. The combination of many elements such as Tak Fujimoto’s stunning cinematography, a touching yet thrilling score by James Newton Howard, a witty and intense script by M. Night Shyamalan, believable performances from a small star-studded cast and the cinematic effect of suspense wrap together to form a clear ‘sign’post pointing directly at the sky, just longing for the question: What if this really did happen?

This film has ‘signs’ of so many different genres thrown in the mix: The tear-jerking dramatic elements mean something for the sentimental and soppy ones, while the horror theme keeps the mindless people happy for nearly two hours - yet still sharp wit and comedic timing are added which show some ‘signs’ of comedy. So how to classify this film? Well it is a dramatic comedy with the essence and soul of a thrilling horror film. But Shyamalan achieves all of this without staging funny lines and bloody gore. He is able to do it using the theatrical element of mystery – what you can’t see is always left up to your imagination - something so scary that you are even frightened to look at it.

"OK, well, besides the possibility that an Olympian Scandinavian long jumper broke into our farm last night, who would you say it was?"

In some respects, Shyamalan has adapted Hitchcock’s artistic methods from The Birds where you can hear the critters scratching on the house, and you can sense the critters outside the house and you know what they are, but you can’t actually see them. Techniques such as this are used throughout Signs to build up a tense atmosphere for the audience to soak up, leaving them nervous and jittery wrecks at the end – either that or a tissue-soaked tear-wiping messes.

The superb cast features many actors from other known films such as Merritt Wever’s (Series 7: The Contenders) quick appearance as a pharmacy assistant and Greg Wood (Kyra’s father in The Sixth Sense) as a news anchorman. And what Shyamalan film can be complete without a cameo from the director himself?

The small yet talented cast are led forth by the Hess family, brothers Graham (Mel Gibson) and Merril (Joaquin Pheonix) and Graham’s kids Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abagail Breslin). The film opens on a farmhouse in the United States where we see Mel Gibson and his family discover crop circles in their cornfields. Thought to be a hoax, the family blame the next door neighbours, but the family (and the world) come to a standstill as crop circles appear all around the world. But not only circles, the lights then come - mysterious lights that hang over cities by night and vanish by day. The creepy happenings are all ‘signs’ of the end of the world, and the Hess family prepare for the worst – stuck in their own house with the horror of outer space trying to get in. Lying underneath this horror story is a tale about regaining faith and finding yourself in the world. A story so much more meaningful, but one that cannot be told without the intense effects of a horror tale.


Signs is presented in its theatrical widescreen aspect of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. After being an operator during this film's theatrical release in late 2002, it is interesting to see how the 35mm print converts to a digital MPEG file. It is very pleasing to be able to say that the conversion is of a high standard, but sadly not perfect. Soft tones and rich detail made this film an absolute bugger to focus theatrically as even the sharpest of lines, such as text, were blurry and soft at the best of times. By far the greatest improvement between the two mediums is the fact that the DVD doesn’t rely on a long stream of film rushing past a projector which can cause a slight wobble on screen. Due to the optical physics of the projection room it is nearly impossible to totally remove this wobble from each session, but DVD can usually eliminate this. Note the word ‘usually’. At times some side-to-side wobble can be seen, with no movement in the vertical direction. But the image still does look great, with a superb clarity and exquisite detail.

Some very slight posterisation effects can be seen during the traditionally-lit opening credits, but this is just getting really picky. Colours are rich, vibrant and beautifully saturated, oozing a lifelike and healthy appearance. Sky blues are vast and colourful and greens are deep and mysterious. The odd film artefact can be seen shooting past, but this one spot and that one hair are barely worth mentioning. A slight wash of grain can be seen, and is mainly visible during the darker sequences. Shadow detail during these sequences is murky and mysterious, adding to the overall tone of the film, however it is still sharply and precisely defined. One small problem is the compression-related artefacts, which are minute but still annoying. They can be seen (primarily) during the opening few minutes when Graham Hess runs through the corn fields for the first time. Upon a frame-by-frame step through of this sequence, they can be seen quite clearly.

Subtitles have been included in a swarm of languages including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. These two title tracks are clear and easy to read, with precise translations of dialogue into text. However, on occasions the subtitles appear too early for the dialogue, giving away the actions before they actually happen.

As with the subtitles, audio tracks have been provided in a heap of languages, with English being the prime listening option. All tracks have been mastered using the Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding method. Now why does this audio track deserve full marks? Well quite simply, it’s remarkable. Not only does it feature a pulsating bass line and crystal clear sound, but also the best use of a 5.1 soundstage I've heard in recent discs.

All six channels are used with such an aggressive audio signal that there is something for all the audio boffins out there. The pulsating subwoofer pounds out the sound in the appropriate places such as score support and the jumps and bumps that make you jump. Surround channels are used effectively and generously, providing a richly detailed rear end to the soundstage. Each rear channel is used independently and constantly to give a wicked kick-arse sound ready to attack your aural senses. Now not only does the rear end have a powerful sound, but the front joins in too. The front left and right speakers are used effectively for effects and the odd bit of dialogue and the centre channel drives the dialogue home. The best feature of the discrete channels would be through James Newton Howard’s magical and intense score. Not only are effects split over the soundstage, but instruments in the score are thrown around the living room providing a true dynamic surround experience.

During the theatrical run of the film, Bo’s dialogue was very muffled and hard to understand, but each and every word to come out of the cutie’s mouth can be understood. It’s amazing how much those few words can add to the film!

If you’re looking for extra features, you’ll need to come back in a few months when the retail copy comes out.

This film is a superb show of traditional filmmaking techniques, excellent transfer qualities and the ability to make you jump one minute and well up with tears the next. Keep the Kleenex handy for the sentimental ones, and the Huggies handy for the jumpy ones!

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  •   And I quote...
    "...For the “popcorn junkies”, this horror film is sure to please, and for the “film buffs”, this drama is sure to reach your soft spot..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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