I realize that I stand (almost) alone on this, but ever since it came out, I’ve felt that Signs was among the best horror movies ever made. Watching it again last night, I still feel that way. It easily makes my top ten.

It is one of only a dozen or so movies that I have seen more than ten times. In fact, I think I have seen Signs somewhere around twenty times. It, along with House of the Devil, are my go to horror movies. The horror movies I keep coming back to in my life, over and over again, and enjoy them each time almost as much as the first time I saw them.

Before we move forward, let’s address the elephant in the room: M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan is, as much as I hate to say it, justly panned now. It’s not just that his last three or four movies have been horrible. No one would notice that. It is that his last three or four movies have been horrible, while his first five movies were all incredible. In 2002, when Signs came out, Shyamalan was fresh off of Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. When Signs came out, Shyamalan was king of the world. Following Signs, he released The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening, all of them not very good movies. I think people have since projected backwards, recasting everything the man has made in light of those late films.

It’s better to see Shyamalan going through three phases. In his early years, he is on fire. Everything he does is gold. This period ends with Signs. In his middle years, he is checking off all the right boxes to continue his success of the early years, but the audience feels like he is phoning it in, checking off boxes on the Shyamalan formula. This runs from Lady in the Water through to the Happening. In the later phase, Shyamalan doesn’t trust himself. From his point of view, he has been doing the same thing he has always done, but almost like a light-switch has been flipped, he goes from Hollywood’s hottest young director to an object of mockery. He loses faith in his ability to create great movies from scratch, and he begins to make movies that are completely out-of-character for himself. This begins with Airbender, and continues from there.

Some people would put Signs in that middle listing, Shyamalan at the start of his decay. This is wrong, simply because Signs is a good horror movie. I still, over ten years and twenty or so viewings later, get goose-bumps when I am supposed to get goose-bumps.

I’m going to avoid the temptation to rant about what I think of most of what passes for horror films today. If you want that, you can just go to my musing on Shirley Jackson and Haunting of Hill House.

blog comments powered by Disqus