New Year’s Eve is rubbish. You’re expected to have a great time which is inevitably disappointing. Everywhere is about ten times busier and more expensive than usual. Then all the televisions start transmitting a signal which drives people to violent insanity. And I’m not talking about the Hootenanny.
This is the premise of 2007’s The Signal, a horror film told in three parts or “transmissions“. Each section has a different writer/director and follows different characters, over the same twisted New Year’s Eve. The idea of television driving people to paranoia is a well-worn but interesting one, particularly nowadays when you can’t turn on the news without it telling you someone’s stupid opinion, or parroting government propaganda, or vying for YouTube hits. In a week when the media has become obsessed with imagined immigrants stealing our livelihoods, The Signal‘s brutal idea of television turning us against one another hits us hard.
It’s nothing new, as I said. The Signal comprises splatters of Romero, splashes of Carpenter and dollops of Cronenberg. But it’s a worthy heir, sporting a healthy throwback vibe and sustaining an uneasy atmosphere through its grainy cinematography, dark music and ultra-violence. There are some good kills with some interesting “weapons”, such as garden shears, pesticidal spray and a balloon pump.
There’s a sense of inevitability about the post-Shaun of the Dead comedic elements, but its the film’s sincerity that provides its edge. The bleak tone, low-budget and warnings about technology make this like a particularly bloody episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, which is a compliment. This makes for a movie which is both nasty and interesting, and feels like a proper horror film, whatever that means. It’s definitely the goriest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of 2012 when my friend drank a whole bottle of off-brand rum and kept throwing up in a girl’s house.