M. Night Shyamalan, the brilliant director of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, comes through again with his latest film Signs. Buena Vista has given Shyamalan his due respect by adding Signs to their Vista Series of DVD’s.
One morning on their farm in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania the Hess family wake up to find a 500 foot crop circle in the corn fields in their back yard. Watching the news brings them reports of similar circles showing up …ll over the world and are said to be the work of extraterrestrials. Strange things start to happen and the family must come to terms with that the fact that the reports are may be true. Prepare yourself for an edge of your seat, emotional, white knuckle rollercoaster that will have you unable to take your eyes off the screen.
M. Night Shyamalan is known for not liking music in films. Despite this fact the score in the film is at times very subtle and at times it another character in the movie (which is why Night does not like scores in movies). The sound effects are another character… they add so much depth and power to the drama; this would be a completely different movie if viewed in just two channel stereo sound. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and it is near reference quality. There is a lot sonically going on in this movie, from incredible 360 degree pans to subtle things that sneak up on you when you least expect it. The LFE portion of 5.1 is well used also with lots of good full bass to help drive up the intensity.
This is a THX certified disc containing a 2.35:1 transfer and contains the THX optimizer system, the first time I watched this film I used my normal reference settings on my TV and found the gamma (contrast) on the disc to be a little high. Normally when I watch a widescreen movie on my 4:3 Sony Wega I do not notice a difference in black levels between the dark parts of a film and the black bars on the top and bottom of the image, with this film I could see the difference. After watching the movie a second time, but this time using the THX optimizer on the disc (and this is the reason it is included on all discs with THX optimization) and the result was a near reference quality video transfer. The image is sharp with no edge enhancements, colors are pure and natural without being washed out or over saturated.
In typical Night fashion, this disc is loaded with special features but no director’s commentary. We start things off with 5 deleted scenes, all of which on their own are good, but also show why they where cut as most deleted scenes normally do. Next there are two of the most intense and pivotal scenes in the movie broken down into multi-angle storyboard features. You can watch the original scene or you can view the storyboard with the finished audio mix, a score only option or sound effects only.
Instead of a director’s commentary we get 6 making of documentaries taking us through the mind of director M. Night’s vision from idea to finished product. “Looking for Signs” looks at how the idea for the story started and also takes us through writing the script. “Building Signs” shows us how much work goes into storyboards and also discuss the sets and locations used in the film. “Making Signs” gives us cast and crew perspectives on shooting the main sequences of the film. “The Effects of Signs” and “Last Voices: The Music of Signs” takes us through the concept and execution of the visual and physical effects as well as the scoring of the movie. Lastly with “Full Circle” we see M.Night Shyamalan the business man discussing the marketing and release of the film. These documentaries offer a look inside the creative processes of one of the best directors in Hollywood and are not your typical cast interviews simply rehashed into multiple featurettes; these are enjoyable and engaging views into the creative process of film making.
Lastly we have a short clip from one of Night’s first creature films as a kid. My only disappointment (and the reason I rated the special features a 4 and not 5) is the fact that there is no commentary for the movie.
I think that M. Night Shamalyn is the most talented new director in Hollywood today. He does things his own way and makes some of the most original and engaging material to come out of Hollywood in a long time. The thing that I find most enjoyable is all the subtle little things that he puts into his movies; you could watch this movie 2 or 3 times (trust me you are going to want to watch this more then once) and still miss things. To quote Mel Gibson “he understands film”.
Shamalyn has the ability to scare the pants off you and keep you on the edge of your seat begging for more with the power of suggestion, it is always scarier to leave it to the imagination of the viewer then to show it and make it gory to make it scary. The climax scene in the cellar will having jumping out of your seat and it is a scene you will soon not forget (think about the tent scene from The Sixth Sense). He has also made a touching human story of a family struggling with deeply emotional issues, making this film his most engaging film to date.
Signs take a genre that has become somewhat stale and twits it into my favorite DVD so far this year; it easily is one of the best movies we will see on DVD in 2003. This is a disc that should be in everyone’s collection, buy it today, you will not be disappointed.
Special Features List
- Making Signs – Exclusive six-part documentary
- 5 Deleted Scenes
- Storyboards: Multi-Angle Feature
- M.Night Shyamalan’s First Alien Film