Ah, the early 2000s. A chubby young Portly was still sweating his way through high school (and, from 2003-2006, college); America’s love affair with patriotism was in full swing; and M. Night Shyamalan was bringing The Twilight Zone-style stories to the big screen.
M. Night could do know wrong in those days. He’d scored a major success with The Sixth Sense (1999), the film that spawned the instantly iconic line “I see dead people.” Then his twists became progressively more schlocky and insulting, starting with The Village (2004). For many years, he was, like the intro to the television show that inspired his stories, spiraling, before mounting a comeback in the last decade.
But he was enjoying his salad days in the early aughts, and this week’s film is an example of Shyamalan during his early peak. I remember seeing this flick at the movie theater in the mall in Indianapolis, Indiana, on a church music trip, and found it quite enjoyable as the chubby, sweaty young man referenced in the opening paragraph of this introduction.
This one hits all marks – humor, pathos, jump scares, creeping creepiness, and creatures. As many times as I’ve watched this movie, two things must be – either I watch it by day, or, I watch it at night only if my husband is in the room with me, lol. That’s the truth. There’s much here to creep you out.
Starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, it’s a story about a family trying to recover from an emotional loss and a father, who also happens to be a Father, who has lost his faith in God. It is also science fiction but looks to an examination of ‘coincidences’. There’s enough here to attract everyone and it is written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan. I suspect this is his crowning work.
One morning, Graham (Mel Gibson) wakes suddenly and sits up in bed. The house is quiet. He goes about his morning routine until, while brushing his teeth in the bathroom, he hears his children screaming. As he flies out of the door of the house, his brother Meryl (Joaquin Phoenix) is running down the stairs of the barn apartment he has been staying in. They meet in the yard and look around for the children. Then the children scream again and the two are off through the corn field to find the children. What they discover is the Sign.
The rest of the movie is beautifully paced, allowing it to grow in mystery and omen that is perfect and not overly long or slow. The mood is watchful, suspenseful … so when we look in to the children’s bedroom, the unexpected laugh shows you just how invested you are in this story.
I don’t want to say anything else about the movie as I’m afraid of giving away too much. The full length movie is available free at this link on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOPKEXVi8UU. I hope you watch it – I’m looking forward to your comments.