M. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of shit. He’s been called a one-trick-pony and a one-hit-wonder, and pretty much everything he’s done since The Sixth Sense has been ridiculed to death online (though Unbreakable has received a much-deserved reevaluation in recent years). But, in his newest video essay, YouTuber Ryan Hollinger challenges viewers to revisit one of the director’s earlier films with the daring thesis statement: Signs is awesome.
While Hollinger is well aware of the film’s flaws, both in concept and execution, he still maintains that there is some good to be found. His argument is two-fold: One, the teasing out of the alien reveal is genuinely suspenseful even if their final design doesn’t exactly stick out in your memory. Two, the character arc for Graham (Mel Gibson)—a former reverend who falls into a faithless depression after the death of his wife—is emotionally and thematically satisfying. These elements works in spite of Shyamalan’s heavy-handed direction and clunky writing, which means they must be pretty damn good indeed.
In the end, Signs works for Hollinger because, despite its flaws, it’s a movie about a family learning to come together in the face of their own mortality. The aliens, with their easily accessible Achilles heel that neuters them before they become a real threat, are kind of secondary to that.
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