The Signal (2014)

Anthony G Williams

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(some spoilers)

Three students are on a road trip across the USA. Two of them have recently got into trouble due to a hacking incident at MIT for which they were not responsible, but are finding that the hacker, calling himself Nomad, is still sending them obscure messages. They manage to locate the source of these messages, not far off their course, so decide to pay the hacker a visit. They arrive at night and find a remote and apparently abandoned shack out in the countryside, but then are overcome by a dazzling white light and lose consciousness.

One of the students, Nic (Brenton Thwaites), recovers in a strange medical facility and we see the rest of the film through his eyes. He is constantly interviewed and tested by Dr Damon (creepily played by Laurence Fishburne) who refuses to answer his questions other than to explain that the staff constantly wear isolation suits as the students are thought to have come into contact with "an extraterrestrial biological entity". Nic constantly tries to escape, especially when he discovers that he has been physically changed, but when he succeeds and rejoins his fellow students they finds themselves in an almost empty semi-desert landscape with only a few mostly-abandoned buildings populated by some strange people. They are constantly on the run from Dr Damon and his staff, and at the climax there are a couple of dramatic revelations which completely change the viewer's understanding about what has been happening.

This has the feel of a low-budget film (which it is), not necessarily a bad thing as it means the focus is on the characters and the dialogue rather than any glossy special effects (in complete contrast to most SFF films). It has an interesting and unusual plot, but while the final scene has a real twist it raises as many questions as it answers.

(An extract from my SFF blog: Science Fiction & Fantasy)
 

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