The Signal, dir. William Eubank, wr. Carlyle Eubank, David Frigerio, William Eubank, st. Laurence Fishburne, Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Lin Shaye
There's more than a little Blomkamp in William Eubank's hi-concept science fiction episode The Signal. Maybe it's the dusty, arid setting and close-quarter framing, or perhaps it's the way that its hyper-modest budget is cleverly employed to make it look like a movie ten times its stature. One thing's for certain, there are a hell of a lot of ideas on offer here, not all of them as confidently executed as others, but enough to illusionistically suggest you're watching something greater than the sum of its parts. We catch our protagonists - MIT students Jonah, Nick, and Hayley - mid road-movie as the boys are in the process of shuttling Hayley to California. On the way, we learn they've been track an internet hacker known only as "Nomad", and that their route allows them the opportunity to drop in on the location his IP signal is emanating from. After some Blair Witch remote shack-investigating, things go very bad indeed and Nick wakes up in what is seemingly an underground research facility, possibly Area 51, and possibly having contracted some kind of pathogen judging by the hazmat-suited team that staff the area. The rest of the movie is given over to unravelling the enigma-wrapped riddle, and Eubank has great fun in establishing an eye-rubbingly strange environment in which everything seems just a bit off. Of course, well-versed sci-fictioners will have seen the ending coming a mile away, and there's just a mite too much super-glossy slo-mo that really belongs in an Audi advert, but Nima Fakhrara's squelchy score keeps the mood bubbling along, and there're some elegant VFX that realise the film's lofty ambitions.