Signs is a 2002 American science fiction horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and released on August 2, 2002. Executive producers for the film comprised Shyamalan, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer. On August 2, 2002, the original motion picture soundtrack was released by the Hollywood Records label and the film score was composed by musician James Newton Howard. A joint collective effort to commit to the film’s production was made by Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, and the Kennedy/Marshall Company. It was commercially distributed by Touchstone Pictures theatrically, and by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in home media format.
The story focuses on a former priest named Graham Hess, who discovers a series of crop circles in his cornfield. Hess slowly becomes convinced that the phenomena are a result of extraterrestrial life. Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin star in principal roles. Signs explores faith, kinship and extraterrestrials.
Following its premiere in theatres nationwide, the film grossed $227,966,634 in domestic ticket receipts screening at 3,453 theatres during its widest release. It earned an additional $180,281,283 in business through international release to top out at a combined $408,247,917 in gross revenue. The film was nominated for multiple awards, including those from the Online Film Critics Society and the Empire Awards. The film also won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Considering its $72 million budget costs, the film was considered a strong financial success after its theatrical run, and was generally met with positive critical reviews before its initial screening in cinemas. The high-definition Blu-ray Disc edition of the film featuring the director’s audio commentary, the making of the film, and deleted scenes was released in the United States on June 3, 2008.
Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) is a former Episcopalian priest. His wife Colleen (Patricia Kalember), was killed in a traffic accident caused by Ray Reddy (M. Night Shyamalan). The accident left Graham embittered and caused him to lose his faith in God, which in turn caused him to leave his church. Graham’s younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a former minor league baseball player, helps run the family farm and care for Graham’s kids, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). Bo has a habit of leaving dozens of half-filled glasses of water around the house, stating that “[they] taste funny,” etc.
Things are uneventful until a mysterious crop circle is found in the family cornfield. Graham thinks it’s a hoax, while Morgan and Bo think it was made by aliens. One night, Bo wakes Graham up and tells him there’s a monster outside her room. Sleepily, Graham tucks her back into bed, but when he looks out Bo’s window he sees a black silhouette standing on the roof of the barn. Alarmed, he fetches Merrill and the two try to scare away the figure, believing it’s Lionel Pritchard (Michael Showalter), a local prankster. The brothers run screaming around the house to frighten off the intruder; it then jumps from the roof directly into the farm’s cornfield. Both see the shadow of the running figure, but never get a good view of it.
The next day, Sheriff Caroline Paski (Cherry Jones) stops by to investigate the incident. She admits that unless Graham has a clear description of the perpetrator, she can’t help him in finding the culprit. That night, Graham goes outside to feed the dog, which is barking incessantly towards the cornfield. Taking a flashlight, Graham walks into the cornfield and calls out to the intruders that they are “wasting [their] time.” While walking back, Graham hears a noise close by and spots a thin green leg sticking out among the cornrows; he runs back to the house, terrified. After Graham returns to the house, the family turns on the television to see that several unidentifiable and mysterious lights are hovering over Mexico City.
During a talk with Merrill, Graham dismisses his brother’s belief in signs and miracles, all evidence of some higher power, and says that they will have to face whatever is threatening them alone. The following morning, Graham receives a phone call from Ray Reddy, the man who accidentally killed his wife, saying only “Father?” before hanging up. Graham goes to see Ray at his home and finds him sitting in his car with blood stains on his shirt. Meanwhile, Merrill watches the television which shows amateur footage depicting an alien walking by a child’s birthday party in Brazil. Ray tells Graham that he is heading for the lake, as he rationalizes that none of the alien activity has gone on near water. Before leaving, Ray pauses to apologize for the accident that killed Graham’s wife, explaining that he had panicked, and was unsure what to do or whom else to call. Then he tells Graham that he has trapped one of the aliens inside his home. Investigating, Graham uses a kitchen knife to see the reflection of the alien under a pantry door. A clawed hand reaches out, and a startled Graham cuts off two of its fingers.
Back at his home, Graham gives his family the option to stay at the house or follow Ray’s advice and head towards the nearest body of water. They vote to stay home, not wanting to leave the place where they lived with their mother. Merrill and Graham board up the windows and doors in preparation for an impending attack. Meanwhile, the media report that more of the mysterious lights similar to those found in Mexico City have been spotted in hundreds of cities worldwide, and it is confirmed that the aliens are hostile. Merrill suggests that the crop circles in their cornfield, among others worldwide, are used for navigation by the aliens, convincing the family that the aliens are literally in their backyard.
Graham prepares what the family expect to be their last meal, with each picking his preferred dish. At dinner the family hear a baby monitor, which they now believe transmits the aliens communications and conclude the aliens are approaching. They stand listening as the aliens move about the exterior of the house as they seek a way in. The dog, left outside, barks incessantly, but is suddenly silenced. Merrill realizes that the attic had been left unprotected and they quickly move to the basement and barred the door. The aliens can be heard moving about inside the house and attempt to enter the basement unsuccessfully. An alien grabs Morgan from inside the no-longer used coal chute. It is repelled by Graham and Merrill, but Morgan has an asthma attack. Graham realizes his son’s inhaler had been left upstairs, so he calms Morgan hoping that the boy’s breathing would return to normal. The next morning, Morgan’s condition has somewhat improved and a radio broadcast reports that aliens are inexplicably retreating. They return upstairs but are ambushed by an alien, who takes the comatose Morgan hostage. Graham notices two of its fingers are missing, suggesting that it is the alien that he encountered in Reddy’s pantry.
Graham flashes to the memory of the night that his wife died. She was pinned between the car and a tree, and the Sheriff informed Graham that as soon as they move the car his wife will die. He talks with his wife who tells him to tell Morgan to have fun and to be silly, for Bo to always listen to her brother because he will take care of her. She tells Graham to “see” and tells Merrill to “swing away.”
Graham realizes events in his life were fated for this moment, as he finds meaning in his wife’s final words. Looking around, he notices Merrill’s record home run bat mounted on the wall, near where Merrill is standing. He turns back to the alien, and tells Merrill to “swing away.” Merrill understands and retrieves the baseball bat. Sensing an attack, the alien sprays a toxin into Morgan’s face. Merrill swings at the alien, who then drops Morgan, causing one of Bo’s water glasses to spill onto it. The water seems like acid on the alien’s skin, so Merrill starts smashing all of the half-filled glasses, before finally knocking the alien into a table, where water glasses spilled directly onto its face, killing it.
During the fight, Graham takes Morgan outside and administers an Epi-pen injection to Morgan to restore his breathing from the asthma attack. His lungs having been closed by asthma apparently had prevented him suffering from the alien’s attack.
Months later, with his faith restored, Graham gets dressed in his clerical garb and goes back to church.
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First Published: May 6, 2012 – Last Updated: May 6, 2013