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Movie Review – Signs – Those Were Demons, Not Aliens

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript“The whole movie Signs is: Why are the demons here bothering Mel Gibson and Ray Reddy, who’s a veterinarian, who’s the guy who fell asleep at the wheel and whose car then killed Mel Gibson’s wife?  He’s played by director Shyamalan.  For different people, the demons are attacking.  Why do demons come in?  Familial discord, guilt, the loss of hope.”  Check out today’s transcript for the rest….

Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  The movie, Mel Gibson and M. Night Shyamalan with Joaquin Phoenix in it, the movie Signs is just a pot over-boiling with actual signs.  Before you start talking about some of the signs, have you seen anything that would lead you to believe that Shyamalan was doing that intentionally, or is this just you and I talking and interpreting?

Stephen Klugewicz:  I have not heard him explain it this way.  I don’t think a director would, right?  He wants it to sink in.  He doesn’t want cheap allegory.  He wants something metaphorical that will sink in.  Look, the movie can be appreciated just as what it is.  If it’s an alien invasion, fine.  There’s a spiritual struggle and everyone can see that, that Mel Gibson as Graham Hess, the central character, is going through.  He’s, as you recall, a former apparently Episcopal priest with a family whose wife was killed in an accident and he lost his faith and now he’s a farmer.  The movie is very powerful just by looking at it that way.

But I feel kind of stupid, Mike, that knowing Shyamalan’s history now, he’s Hindu but he was raised in the Philadelphia area and went to Episcopal and Catholic schools.  If you look at his films before Signs, like Wide Awake and 1998 with Rosie O’Donnell as a nun — stay with me, it was a good movie.  And The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable with Bruce Willis.  He’s always exploring the spiritual and supernatural.

Mike:  What about Devil, the elevator movie?

Klugewicz:  Right.  That came in 2010, eight months later than Signs.  But that’s confirmation, if you see that movie, going back and saying: Of course, he’s always dealing with this.  So it didn’t hit me until last month.  I’m watching it for maybe the twelfth time and it hits me suddenly and nothing in particular.  It’s sort of like the end of a Shyamalan movie where suddenly you say “Ahh!”  and it all comes together.  Suddenly I said to myself — maybe it’s that line that actually struck me the first time I saw it, when Mel Gibson says, “Is this really happening?”  I remember the first time I saw it thinking: Okay, we know Shyamalan likes these little twists at the end, these payoffs.  Maybe this whole thing isn’t happening.  But then you see the alien at the end and a couple glimpses in between and you say: Okay, I guess it was really happening, these aliens.  When I saw it in October, that line hit me again.  Suddenly it just all came together.  All the little things in the movie now make sense, if you interpret this as not aliens but demons.

Mike:  I agree with you that it makes sense, especially seeing as how just recently there’s been a UFO group that was going around the United States and Canada and interviewing people that had been visited or were reporting that they were being frequently visited by what they took to be aliens.  Some of them had reported having been abducted and what have you, and having had these horrible procedures performed on them.  They went in to go interview these people and put a database of information together.  Is there anything that any of these people have in common?  Can we establish any common trends or traits here to try and make a little sense of this?  The aliens, do they come at midnight?  Are they tall, short?  Do they speak a language?

Their research revealed one particular common denominator that they were not expecting.  It made them then go back out and interview more people to see if they could un-verify the answers.  In other words, they didn’t like the answer they got.  The common denominator, Stephen, was that when people were visited by aliens, if they were of the Christian faith, and if they invoked the name of Jesus Christ and aimed it at the alien and rebuked or told the alien to get out in the name of Jesus Christ, that not only would he get out, but the visitations would stop.  It led to the conclusion that — when they first got that, they said: That can’t be right.  We’re going to be out of business.  We can’t have aliens being demons.  So we need to go ask the right people the questions and un-prove what we’ve already proven.

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When they couldn’t, when they got the same results the second time, they published their findings and quit being UFO hunters.  They’re not UFO hunters now.  I don’t know if they’re working with an exorcist but they’re not UFO hunters.  You and I were having a conversation on the Facebook chat.  That’s what I was thinking of.  I can see — I don’t know how Shyamalan could have known this, but we know that demons can manipulate matter like angels can.  They can appear to you in any form they want to, right?

Klugewicz:  Exactly.  What would a demon attack look like?  What does a demon attack look like?  As Christians, as Catholics, we recognize this world is basically a spiritual battle.  Demons are active.  How people interpret them — really, it’s the last thing you want to admit if you’re a believer, that there’s a demon pestering you, the first phase of demon attack.  People who are secular would see, as you said, the attack is aliens or psychological, some sort of illness or hallucination.  All of that plays into what’s going on in the movie.  If there was a criticism of Signs — it did well at the box office and among critics — was that it’s unrealistic.

These aliens come from galaxies away and they’re running around basically naked with no guns.  Where are their spaceships?  They can’t turn doorknobs.  They can’t get in a window in a farmhouse.  How ridiculous.  That was the only criticism.  But if you see them as demons and see what’s going on — because really you never get out of basically Mel Gibson’s farmhouse in the movie.  All this stuff you see about the aliens invading the world is all on TV.  Is it really happening?

Mike:  But you never see — there’s no ship.  The alien that has his fingers cut off — this is another part of the movie that you pointed out.  I did not get this at all.  When Mel Gibson goes to the dude’s house, I can’t remember his name, and he tells him: Do what you want.  I’ve got one locked in the pantry.  Set that up, the symbolism of that.

Something we thought was a terrible development, a condition that we have, that’s only a cross, but we Christians, we Catholics can see there’s a reason for everything and why God gave us this cross, this disability, this struggle.  It’s beautifully brought out.

Klugewicz:  The whole movie is: Why are the demons here bothering Mel Gibson and Ray Reddy, who’s a veterinarian, who’s the guy who fell asleep at the wheel and whose car then killed Mel Gibson’s wife?  He’s played by director Shyamalan.  For different people, the demons are attacking.  Why do demons come in?  Familial discord, guilt, the loss of hope.  I think with Ray Reddy the veterinarian who accidentally killed Mel Gibson’s character’s wife, he can’t get rid of the guilt.  That’s shown in a couple scenes in the movie, especially that scene that you’re referring to where Mel Gibson, as Graham Hess, comes over to Ray Reddy’s house, the guy who killed his wife — there’s obviously something between them that has not been reconciled.  In the conversation, Ray Reddy is still torn with guilt.  He says to Mel Gibson: They don’t usher people who’ve killed pastors’ wives into the frontline at Heaven.  Then before he drives off, he says to Mel Gibson, “I locked on in my pantry.”  Again people said: Oh, this is ridiculous.  How can an alien not get out of the pantry?

Mike:  I thought the same thing, too.

Klugewicz:  Right.  If you see the alien as a demon, the demon of guilt, of hopelessness, of despair — that’s what the devil wants you to do, to despair.  God can’t forgive me.  I killed a pastor’s wife.  There’s no way I can be ushered into heaven.  The demon is manifesting himself, I would say, to Ray Reddy in this way.  To Mel Gibson, the main character, the former Episcopal priest, it’s pretty obvious.  He’s lost his faith.  His wife has died.  He has a great conversation on the couch with Joaquin Phoenix’s character, his brother Merrill.  He says: You’re one of two types of people.  Either everything happens by chance and no one is watching over you, or everything is designed and someone (God, obviously) is watching over you.  It’s clear that Mel Gibson’s character says there’s no one watching over us.

Mike:  Well, we know what his conclusion is.

Klugewicz:  Yes.  That’s his demon.  There’s a great entry for the demon.  You’ve lost faith.  Another thing critics pointed out, as we get to the final scene — first, you’ll notice the “alien” has cloven-hooves.  You get a shot of his feet closely just for a second, but this is the traditional medieval portrayal of the demon, with the cloven hooves like an animal.  The water — the little girl Bo, has this habit of leaving glasses of unfinished water around the house.  It’s very cute.  This one has a hair in it.  My brother drank out of this one and has his amoebas.  This one tastes old.

Mike:  But they’re all over the house.

Klugewicz:  All over the house.  But a master storyteller, of course, everything for unity of effect.  This has a meaning besides just being cute.  Remind me to come back to her famous line in the movie.  At the end, what is the alien’s “weakness”?  It’s water.  Critics again said: That’s ridiculous.  They come to a planet covered with water.  We’re two-thirds, three-quarters water.

Mike:  How could they come to a planet covered with water?  Why would they do such a thing?  That’s just stupid.  Right, I remember that.

Klugewicz:  Right.  And the critics are right.  They’re demons.  It’s holy water.  Probably the most famous line in the movie early on, when we first get a shot of one of these alien / demons is when the little girl Bo wakes her father up, Mel Gibson, and says: There’s a monster outside my room.  Can I have a glass of water?  Without missing a beat, there’s no pause between those two things.  It’s a great laugh line.  Those are kids.  The typical fantasy, there’s a monster and can I have a glass of water in the middle of the night?  If you’re a dad, you probably had that line almost said to you, right?  Under the demon interpretation, Bo, who is described by the character Mel Gibson plays, when he’s telling her near the end in another scene, that when she was born the nurses said she looked like an angel.  They gasped: She looks like an angel.  She’s the angel.  She’s the messenger.  She’s the one that brings the holy water.  She’s the one who knows, in that moment: There’s a monster outside my room.  Can I have a glass of water?  It’s to combat him.  It’s holy water, Mike.  She gets it.  The little girl gets it unconsciously.

Mike:  So we put the whole thing together here and the little girl knows from the get-go.  There’s another scene in here that many people just took as not foreshadowing for this being a movie about the spiritual battle going on but a movie about aliens.  They just took it as serendipitous that the mother had told her brother-in-law, Joaquin Phoenix, something about swinging away or swing for the stands or something to that effect, which comes up again when he goes to take the baseball bat down off the wall.  Remember, he’s a former baseball player that quit because he had a drinking problem.  He has demons, too, right?

Klugewicz:  Yes.  Certainly he was the big homerun champ in the minors but also the strikeout champ.  He’s given up this baseball career and he’s working at the gas station.  You sense, again — that’s great, Mike.  As I re-watched it — I just watched it again after writing this essay.  You see these little things.  He’s got his own issues.  He seems to be despairing in life, directionless, the brother.  You refer to the key scene.  If you take it as aliens, it’s still a key scene, but so much more meaning if you see these aliens as demons.  The wife is dying.  Mel Gibson is brought to the scene of the accident.  Before she dies, she tells her husband, Graham: Tell Merrill to swing away.  She says to him, Graham, talking to him in the third person: Tell Graham to see and then tell Merrill to swing away.

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At the climactic moment when it seems like the “aliens” have left the earth and the family comes out of the basement because they need the asthma medication for young Morgan, they come out and there’s that alien that Graham had met in the pantry and cut the fingers off of.  There he is.  Here’s where you look at the demon interpretation and that’s seen as even more powerful.  When is the demon finally overcome?  When Graham changes his mind.  Whereas before he said the dying wife’s nerve endings in her brain were firing and she was saying random things about baseball games.  He suddenly realizes those weren’t random.  She was saying those things basically because God was having her say those things to warn us.  He looks up at the baseball bat and says to his brother: Merrill, swing away.

Mike:  That’s when he swings, misses, hits the water, the water gets on the alien and he starts to burn, starts to dissolve like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Klugewicz:  Right, or a demon with holy water.

Mike:  And then we have the other final scene.  We’re talking about the movie Signs, by the way, just a little fun segment here with Stephen Klugewicz from The Imaginative Conservative website.  The other thing that happens there is that the son has the asthma.  When the alien is trying to get the poison gas to go in his lungs, they went to go get the asthma medicine.  This is another one where the critics said: That’s just too convenient.  Come on, how hokey is that?  Again, explain that as a demon and not as an alien and it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Klugewicz:  That’s right.  That’s often the way in life, right?  Something we thought was a terrible development, a condition that we have, that’s only a cross, but we Christians, we Catholics can see there’s a reason for everything and why God gave us this cross, this disability, this struggle.  It’s beautifully brought out.  In the final scene the alien has been killed, but the young boy hasn’t been able to breathe and he’s had this poison sprayed on his face.  Mel Gibson is cradling him at the end with his brother and little Bo.  He says: No poison got in.  He realizes his lungs were closed and no poison got in.  He gives him the shot and the boy comes back to life and says: Did someone save me?  Mel Gibson, who’s had his faith destroyed throughout this movie, says: Yeah, baby, I think someone did.  Then he cries.

End Mike Church Show Transcript

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2 Responses
  1. Scott

    Brilliant observation! I enjoyed the movie but it didn’t make sense. Until now. Enjoyed your show for many years. Keep the Faith Brother.

  2. Wil

    Mike, I would very much enjoy hearing this type of discussion or reviews of other movies, especially ones which I have already viewed so that I can view them again with this new perspective. Without intending offense, I propose replacing your ususal Friday movie review segment with this.

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