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Film Spotlight: The Signal


Two summers ago, Tyler Davidson, the Northeast Ohio-based movie producer who was behind Sundance Film Festival hits such as Take Shelter and Compliance, read the script for The Signal, a strange sci-fi flick about a group of teens who have an extraterrestrial experience in the middle of the desert.

"I loved the script," he says one recent morning while sitting at a Starbucks in the Warehouse District in the attempt to drum up some local interest in the flick. It opens on Friday at Cinemark Valley View. "I'm a closet sci-fi geek going back to when I was first watching movies. I just never found the right opportunity to get into that genre. Not only did I think that this was a good script, but it also felt accessible from a production standpoint. What really sold me on it was meeting with the writer-director Will Eubank."

Davidson describes Eubank's first feature, 2011's Love, as "pretty experimental."

"He had no budget for that movie yet he recreated the international space station in his parents' backyard and he built massive Civil War sets," says Davidson. "He's a real visionary."

The Signal is plenty experimental too. The film begins as a fairly conventional road trip as MIT students Nick and Jonah (Brenton Thwaites and Beau Knapp) drive Nick's girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) out to the West Coast. But as they stop in the middle of the desert in the attempt to find a computer hacker who's been messing with them, they find themselves in the midst of some kind of alien invasion, and, man in a hazmat suit (Laurence Fishburne) begins asking them a series of questions. Davidson thinks the film, as strange as its storyline might be, isn't out of sync with the rest of the summer movies attracting big crowds.

"I think it's the summer movie audience," Davidson says. "It will appeal to the people going to see X-Men, Godzilla and Spider-Man 2 and whatever else. But it's an alternative. It's a bit of counter programming. It's for people who are looking for something a little more elevated. At the end of the day, it's a sci-fi action thriller but it also has the Sundance stamp. I think it has its own place."

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