By turns creepy, suspenseful, scary and dramatic, M Night Shyamalan's 2002 film SIGNS was the last of three great films in a row that he crafted over a decade ago.
Following "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable", which still ranks as my favorite of his films, he wrote and directed this tight, exciting film with a strong cast.
Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, a former priest who has lost his faith after the death of his wife in a tragic accident. Living on a rural farm with his brother Merrill (the always great Joaquin Phoenix) and his two kids Morgan and Bo (strong performances from Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin) Graham has never got over his wife's death and his subsequent hard fall from religion.
The family begins experiencing signs including strange noises at night, huge crop circles in their fields and these events soon escalate into something much bigger.
The brilliance of Shyamalan's screenplay and execution as a director is that he only allows you to see the worldwide events through the eyes of this one rural family. What they and you come to understand of these events comes solely through the family or what they see on television or hear on the radio.
It's the anti-Michael Bay approach to filmmaking and it really works here to great effect, building suspense from its beginning to the supercharged last 30 minutes.
There is a LOT more going on here than an alien invasion. The film is as much about faith, family and grief as it is about aliens.
All these themes are deftly interwoven by the director, who would soon fall off a cliff of creativity with his next film and ever since. There are certainly no signs of that here.
From its first notes over the main titles, James Newton Howard's music score is excellent in an almost reverent tribute to the best Bernard Herrmann scores for Hitchcock.
Gibson and cast are perfection.
Scary, moving, suspenseful and fun, SIGNS gets an A+ and another M Night spot in my all-time Top 100, next to his best film, "Unbreakable".