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Beneath all that gore, a tender love story

The signal is everywhere and nowhere. The signal infiltrates our lives through the TV and the stereo, through cell phones, home phones and car radios.

The signal is everywhere and nowhere.

The signal infiltrates our lives through the TV and the stereo, through cell phones, home phones and car radios.

The signal tells us what to do, what to desire . . . and whom to kill - first.

There's no escape from the signal.

That's the premise of

The Signal

, a startlingly original, smart indie film that so effortlessly mixes high-caliber gore, suspense and shocking violence with vaudevillian hilarity, it's clearly animated by the spirit of the classic



The Signal

, which is divided into three parts, or "Transmissions," is the lovably grotesque creation of Atlanta-based writer-directors David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush. Each filmmaker wrote and directed one of the film's interlocking episodes, which tell the same basic story from different points of view.

It's early morning on New Year's Eve in Terminus, a cold, impersonal city on the verge of an apocalyptic collapse that begins when a strange signal disrupts every electronic device in town.

TV screens go aswirl with a raging maelstrom of psychedelic colors and shapes; phones emit disturbing electronic sounds.

Whoever is exposed to the eerie transmission gets "The Crazy," to use one of the character's clinical terms, and immediately attacks everyone around.

"The Crazy" manifests itself differently depending on the specific fears, anxieties, secrets and repressed memories of the individual, a clever premise that allows the filmmakers to explore the characters' psyches.

By mid-morning, the city is virtually empty - of living people. The streets are littered with bleeding, maimed, tortured bodies.

The Signal

has its share of things to say about urban paranoia, road rage, addiction - whether to sex, drugs or, more dangerously, consumerism. But it stands apart from other pictures of the same ilk by using


apocalypse as a backdrop to a bitter-sweet love story.

The film opens in the wee hours of the night as a sleepless Ben (Justin Welborn), a 20-something hipster, is watching a horror movie on TV, while his lover, Mya (Anessa Ramsey), is asleep. More accurately, it opens


the film on TV! (Bruckner shot a 10-minute horror flick for the sequence.)

Ben is enmeshed in a love triangle: Mya is married to Lewis (AJ Bowen), a loutish exterminator who loves to spray his victims in the face with bug spray once he gets The Crazy.

The story line is simple: Mya escapes from Lewis when he goes on a killing spree. Ben scours the city looking for her and ends up mano a mano with Lewis.

The movie is a bit like a three-dimensional puzzle and it is only in the end that we get the whole story.

And what a lovely, fabulous, thrilling - albeit ultra-violent - story it is.

The Signal *** (out of four stars)

Directed by David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush. With Justin Welborn, AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time:

1 hour, 39 mins

Parent's guide:

R (extreme violence, gore, profanity, mature themes)

Playing at:

area theaters