M. Night Shyamalan doesn't exactly have a great reputation as a director. Since his blockbuster debut, the Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has become sort of a one trick pony (horror movies with twist endings) and his films seem to be increasingly critically panned. Signs stands apart in his oeuvre because it doesn't really have a twist ending. The movie also works better as a comedy than a horror movie for me, though there are some genuinely tense moments in it.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is about widowed Reverend Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) who lost his faith after his wife died. He lives on a farm with his two kids (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) and his brother (Joaquin Phoenix). When mysterious crop circles start appearing in their cornfield, some of the locals in his town believe they may have been created by aliens.
The Five Best Things about Signs:
1). Joaquin Phoenix before he became a rap star: The best reason to see this movie is probably Joaquin Phoenix's performance. Before he became the This is Spinal Tap version of himself, Phoenix was a credible and talented actor, turning out interesting performances in movies like Quills, Gladiator, and Hotel Rwanda. Here he plays Merrill Hess, a former minor league baseball star. Merrill is not the brightest character and is the source for a lot of the humor in the movie. Phoenix is probably best known for his work in serious roles like Walk the Line, but here he demonstrates his comedic abilities.
2). Merrill's monologue on fate: One time, I was at this party... and I was sitting on the couch with Amanda McKinney. She was just sitting there, looking beautiful. So, I lean in to kiss her, and I realize I have gum in my mouth. So, I turn to spit it out and put it in a paper cup. I turn back, and Amanda McKinney throws up all over herself. I knew the moment it happened, it was a miracle. I could have been kissing her when she threw up. It would have scarred me for life. I may never have recovered.
3). Michael Showalter in a non-humorous role: Primarily a comedian, Showalter appears in only one scene as Lionel Prichard, who refers to Merrill as a "class A-screw up" to an army recruiter. To see Showalter's funny side, check out the State, the Baxter or the Michael Showalter Showalter (warning: clips contain adult language).
4). Tracy Abernathy: A pharmacist with a foul mouth who confesses all her sins to Reverend Graham because she believe the alien invasion is a sign of the end of the world.
5). The tin foil scene:
Find it in the Catalog