Signs Blu-ray Review
PictureSigns is presented in its theatrically correct 1.85 :1 on Blu ray, and although it is a vast improvement on the previously Standard Definition release it is certainly not up there with other back catalogue HD discs.
The first thing to mention is a problem that the people who produced this disc cannot help and that is the source print. There are some imperfections and marks that I had never noticed on the DVD version but are present here. Admittedly you have to look quite hard to notice them, so they are unlikely to spoil the average viewers enjoyment of the disc - but they are there and should be mentioned.
Comparing this transfer against the DVD transfer (which I also own), immediately the improvements are obvious. The SD version is very soft and indistinct in places, but the Blu ray is sharp and clear. Detail levels are much improved, and in some of the darker scenes (particularly in the house at the end) you can see much more of what is going on.
The image does not have a great deal of depth to it, and it certainly lacks that pseudo-3D quality that the best transfers have. Although the film does deploy a deliberately muted colour palette, the colours are certainly more vibrant here than they are in the SD release. Black levels are deep, although contrast is a little lacking throughout the film.
Overall, then - this is a marked improvement on the SD release and any flaws that are present are more likely to do with the source than anything inherently wrong with the encode.
SoundSigns always had a superlative sound mix, so when I saw that this disc was blessed with a PCM 5.1 mix I had high hopes. And I wasn't disappointed.
My usual complaint with these mixes is that there is far too much bombast and very little subtlety. This mix takes a completely different approach than most, and is far better for it.
There are effective use of all five speakers from the very opening scene right through to the end, creating a palpable sense of atmosphere and dread. The sense of place within the sound field is perfect, with the viewer being enveloped in a truly immersive soundscape.
The score is also well integrated into the soundtrack, being sparse but well presented. Unfortunately there is one slight problem in that the dialogue is a little too low in the mix, and I did have to up the db level slightly to truly hear every word, and this is a shame in such a dialogue rich film.
ExtrasIt is a relief to find all the extras from the SD release included here on the HD version. On paper, there may not seem to be that much in the way of extra features, but what is included here is certainly in depth and detailed.
The meat of the extras sandwich is The Making of Signs - a 60 minute documentary which is a result of unrestricted access to the set. This means that we get a lot of fascinating behind the scenes material, and also several exclusive in depth interviews with the cast, including Gibson. Never resorting to easy platitudes about members of the cast or aspects of the production this is about as far from a promotional fluff fest as one could imagine. This is an involving and consistently interesting documentary.
We are then presented with 14 minutes of Deleted Scenes. We are not told anything about these or why they were taken out of the film - as there is no kind of commentary. They are good to have here, but I cannot see them being watched more than once.
The Multi-Angle Storyboard featurette is one of the alien scenes presented as final film, storyboard, or split screen. This is a fairly superfluous feature to be honest. Finally, we get an early short film by the director.
VerdictSigns has always been a guilty pleasure for me - but I really do not see why it is a film that meets with such mixed opinions. It is an interesting and cerebral mix of family drama and alien invasion which probably sounds unlikely when summarised like that, but due to the strength of the performances, and - yes - the assuredness of the direction the film just works.
The film is served on Blu ray with a decent if unspectacular picture, and an excellent sound mix. We also get one excellent documentary and some other less interesting extras.
If you like the film, then the upgrade is just about worth it. If you have never seen it before, then admittedly there are other higher profile back catalogue releases that you may be tempted by. But Shyamalan, despite the evidence of his last three films, IS an excellent director and here he has fashioned an unusual, affecting film that is far better than its critics would have you believe.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £34.99
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