#WayBackWednesday – Signs (2002)

We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.

We all have those movies that we watched on repeat growing up. During my senior year of high school, there was a period of a month or so where my school was shut down due to an unfortunate problem with mold. I was in the marching band so on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we had band practice all day, but every other day was spent at home. It was a race between my sister and I to see who would get up first and therefore get to dominate the DVD player that day. As my body hates sleep, I often won this battle and therefore would put on my movie of choice while eating my bowl of Cocoa Pebbles. Two films often won out–The Fellowship of the Ring (this was before the extended cut was released) and Signs. The latter is the subject of today’s #WayBackWednesday. Check out the trailer for Signs

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Signs was the first time I, of my own volition, watched a movie that dips its toe into the horror genre. I became utterly enamored of the film. If you’ll recall, here on the site I have mentioned how I had a strong aversion to the horror genre for most of my life. I jumped in all the right places on my first viewing, but with each subsequent viewing, I jumped less and noticed more and more detail in every shot. Even with my inexperience in film analysis at the time, I began to notice the visual cues that highlight the action in every shot. From the circular shapes on Graham’s bedroom curtains to the earth-toned color palette that comprises the costumes, the interior and exterior shots, even down to the golden brown German Shepherds that belong to the Hess family, everything in the background evokes cornfield imagery; “signs” abound in Signs

Not only is this film a visual feast and a great crash course in “Show, Don’t Tell,” but it’s got some of the funniest moments of any M. Night Shyamalan film. There are many points in the film where the tension is broken by deadpan dialogue and I love it. “Why can’t they get girlfriends?”, Merrill’s recounting of why he’s a “miracle man,” and “Furry Furry Rabbit,” never cease to make me cackle, no matter how many times I’ve seen this movie. 

What I love the most about Signs is how it reaches me on a philosophical and spiritual level. “It felt wrong not to swing,” is my favorite line in any movie ever and resonates deeply with me on a personal level, as I try to always take a metaphorical swing, no matter what’s set before me. Watching Graham wrestle with his anger and pain at God and his resulting crisis of faith is something I can identify with as well. The question of whether or not we’re truly on our own or if all the things in our lives, the good and bad, ultimately serve a purpose, keep my mind racing long after the credits roll. Signs is a film that doesn’t just entertain, but makes me ponder over life’s oldest questions. These philosophical questions give Signs its staying power and why I am more than happy to watch this movie again and again. 

Packed with the hallmarks of an M. Night film, Signs has beautiful cinematography, monster in shadow, and his signature twist at the end. This film made me an M. Night fan, and I’ll always be willing to give his work a shot because of this movie, even if he’s not been on the upswing in recent memory. 

If you’re looking for a fun and thoughtful thriller this summer, I commend Signs to you. This is one worthy of your time and philosophical discussion afterwards. 

Signs is currently streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW. 

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