Although The Signal (2014) begins with a slow build-up, development of character, and mystery, it ultimately loses its balance and falls flat.
Advertised more as a horror movie, The Signal is actually a science fiction thriller with only some minor horror elements. It’s relatively safe for most family viewing, though I can’t say that everyone will find it interesting. Director Wiliam Eubank’s cinematographer roots definitely show.
On their way across country to move Haley (Olivia Cooke) from a prominent East Coast college to a prominent West Coast college, her boyfriend, Nic (Brenton Thwaites), and his best friend, Jonah (Beau Knapp), are also seeking the identity of a mysterious hacker calling himself Nomad. Nomad hacked into the college’s computers, created some mischief, and blamed it on our leading lads and now they need to prove they are better than him. In their search for Nomad, they find more than they ever hoped or feared.
I can’t say much more beyond this without actually giving up some major spoilers. The weight of the film’s minimalist cast dramatically increases with the addition of Laurence Fishburne, but the ultimate reveal at the end – an attempt to pull off a grand Shymalan twist – feels far too contrived, and Fishburne can’t seem to escape the shadow of Morpheus.
Although The Signal is a good watch, do yourself a favor and turn it off when Nic hits the glass wall (seen in the preview at 1:43) and leave the rest of the mystery to your imagination. Too often, knowing what is behind the curtain just turns The Wizard into an old man with a bag of tricks.
Previews for films mentioned in this review: