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“The Signal”

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By Matt Singer

Three stories, three writer/directors, one movie. That’s the premise of the apocalyptic sci-fi triptych “The Signal,” a movie full of stuff that should feel like gimmicks but don’t. David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush tell three interconnected stories with one shared cast and manage to craft something that feels like a collaboration, but looks like a work of one vision, albeit one shared by three like-minded and very creative artists.

A strange, psychedelic transmission from every television, computer, and radio in the city of Terminus has turned half the population into primordial murderers and has sent the other half running for their lives. Once you stare at this “signal” for too long, it infects your mind and triggers massive hallucinations and homicidal mood swings. One of the survivors is Mya (Anessa Ramsey), who, in the film’s first segment, “Crazy in Love,” returns from an extramarital affair she’s having with a nice guy named Ben (Justin Welborn) shortly before people everywhere start freaking out. In the second piece, “The Jealousy Monster,” Mya’s jealous husband Lewis (AJ Bowden) follows her trail to an apartment complex where everyone has lost their mind but no one realizes it. And in the final portion, “Escape from Terminus,” Ben tries to track down Mya and ward off her murderous husband.

Though they tell a single narrative, each segment has its own tone and purpose. “Crazy in Love” is a very classic kind of world-goes-to-pot piece with gore and scares and people screaming things like, “One out of every two people just decided to kill each other!” while holding homemade weapons they’ve fashioned out of duct tape and kitchen utensils. “The Jealousy Monster” is a pitch black comedy that takes a different tact: Since those infected by the “signal” can’t comprehend that they’ve lost their minds, it proposes that an isolated group of lunatics wouldn’t realize they’ve all gone cuckoo. In it, a dinner party carries on as if nothing is wrong even as guest after guest gets savagely butchered. (Sample dialogue: “You killed Laura!” “She was coming straight at you with a knife!” “That was a keychain!”) “Escape from Terminus” resolves the Ben-Mya-Lewis love triangle, but couches its resolution in a warning about our society’s increasing preference for electronic interactivity over actual human interaction. It’s certainly a timely message. I’ll be honest, I spent the better part of today playing “Rock Band” instead of taking the guitar I own and starting a real one. And I’m strangely okay with that. Clearly, it’s already too late for me.

Bruckner, Gentry and Bush’s movie is scary and smart, and laden with clever low-fi filmmaking; ironically, a bunch of guys railing against technology are quite adept at using it in service of a story. “The Jealous Monster” in particular deploys all kinds of clever (and cheap) camera tricks in the service of giving the viewer the taste of what it’s like to have your perceptions corrupted by the “signal.” Even the multiple “gotcha!” endings work. Plus, these guys have a ready-made metaphors for the way their film works — it gets inside your skull and it takes control.

“The Signal” opens in limited release today.

[Photo: “The Signal,” Magnet Releasing, 2008]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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