Signs (2002), a sci-fi thriller by visionary director M. Night Shyamalan has garnered a cult following over the years, leaving a mark on genre cinema. Shyamalan has drawn inspiration from crop circles, and he builds a narrative that brilliantly weaves together the themes of faith, skepticism, and the fear of the unknown. At its core, the philosophical thriller analyses the human experience as a whole and our pursuit of knowledge.

“Signs” stands out in light of its psychological depth and brilliant storytelling, establishing itself as a masterpiece. Additionally, the movie earned more than $400 million worldwide, making it a financial triumph. That said, critics are divided on the film, with some praising the performances and themes and others critiquing the plot and execution. The article clarifies some murky parts of the movie and provides a detailed explanation of Shyamalan’s directorial brilliance. It also makes an effort to decipher the story’s symbolic language and analyze the themes it explores.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might want to skip reading this analysis and save it for later because it contains spoilers. Everyone else, please proceed. Have fun reading!

Signs (2002) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Prologue

Do you believe in coincidences, or do you believe in signs? “Signs” opens with an air of impending doom. Its eerie atmosphere features Reverend Graham waking up feeling something is amiss and Bo telling him, “There’s a monster outside my room; can I have a glass of water?” This sets the stage for what’s to come next. The thought-provoking movie revolves around a former reverend who lost his faith in God after his wife’s tragic death.

The film follows him as he goes through a crisis that strengthens his faith and unites his family. As the Hess family faces an extraterrestrial (demon) invasion, the focus zooms in on their point of view. Amid the catastrophe, tensions are building within the Hess family, which includes the patriarch, a former Reverend Graham Hess, his son Morgan, his daughter Bo, and his brother Merrill. Their bond serves to restore order in the face of chaos, and they grow stronger and closer to one another.

There are a number of signs that tell us something is amiss. The family discovers a crop sign in their field, and their dog becomes aggressive when it senses danger. Tragically, the dog dies while trying to attack Bo. In an effort to make sense of the strange threat, the characters initially interpret events through their own unique lenses. For example, the inspector sees it as a military problem; Merrill sees the extraterrestrial news as a bunch of nerds entertaining themselves; Graham sees it as pranksters carrying out a joke; and so on. This way, the movie offers us several plausible theories.

How does the Hess family react to the news?

Things quickly escalate as Bo’s baby monitor detects strange signals. Graham and Merrill witness a fast-moving figure on their roof, and Graham spots an alien’s legs in the crop field. Furthermore, the news begins to broadcast extraterrestrial activities in numerous locations around the world, supporting the hints made at the beginning of the movie. Following this, the family processes and responds to the news differently. Graham initially falls into complete denial, hoping to shield his family from the news and restore normalcy. Morgan, on the other hand, buys a book to learn more about aliens, while Merrill pays close attention to the news and is open to the possibility of extraterrestrial activity.

What sets the plot in motion?

Signs (2002) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analysed
A still from “Signs” (2002)

When Graham receives a call from Ray Reddy, the guy who killed his wife, this sets the plot in motion. After Graham answers the call, there is complete silence on the other end. Consequently, Graham rushes to Ray’s home to check on him. When Ray rushes outside his house, he tells Graham that he’s going to the lakeside because aliens might be afraid of water. He then informs him that the possibility exists, as there is no evidence of alien activity near water bodies.

He then asks Ray to stay away from his pantry because he has trapped an alien inside. In addition, Ray apologizes for killing his wife in an accident. He tells Graham that he succumbed to sleep abruptly at that precise moment, seemingly in alignment with fate. Graham enters Ray’s house after Ray has left to confirm whether an alien is actually trapped in the room. He then takes a knife from the counter and uses it as a reflective surface while he bends down to peek into the room. However, the alien spreads his fingers and grabs him. Graham then runs away after cutting the alien’s fingers with the knife.

Repressed feelings rear their ugly heads

Graham asks his family what they’d like to have for dinner that night. He asks each of them about what they most feel like having. This almost feels like a last meal, as he anticipates that they won’t be able to survive another night. Before starting dinner, Morgan asks to say grace. However, given that Graham has lost his faith, he says he doesn’t want to waste another minute praying. Following this, a fight breaks out between the two of them, and it ends up ruining the family moment. However, seeing as things could quickly fall apart at any time, the entire family bands together to figure things out.

Signs (2002) Movie Ending Explained:

Does the Hess family survive the alien (demon) invasion?

Not long after that, the aliens show up outside their home, attempting to break in. Shortly after, they get on the roof, and Graham quickly tells his kids stories about their birth, almost as if it were a final conversation. After this, the family rushes into the basement and shuts all of the doors.

Does Morgan die?

While in the basement, the aliens try to knock the door of the basement down. Furthermore, when Morgan stands near a door, an alien grabs onto him with its claws. After this, Graham manages to save him. However, Morgan has an asthma attack, and his inhaler is not with him. Following this, Graham holds him and slowly helps calm his breathing. The following morning, Merrill turns on the radio, and the family learns that the aliens have left Earth. The news goes on to tell the people that the Middle East found a weakness in the alien group, and the aliens have left. However, they have left their wounded behind.

After the family ascends the stairs, the alien grabs Morgan, whose fingers Graham had previously cut. The alien then sprays a poisonous gas into Morgan’s nostrils. Following this, Graham uses his late wife’s advice and tells Merrill to “swing away.” We then see Merrill hit the alien with his baseball bat. Moreover, when Bo’s half-full glasses of water fall on the alien, it burns his skin, and he dies. Following this, we learn that since Morgan’s lungs didn’t take in the poisonous gas, nothing happened to him. Additionally, Reverend Graham’s faith has gotten more potent, and he rejoins the priesthood. Furthermore, the catastrophe strengthens their bond, bringing the family closer together.

Signs (2002) Movie Themes Analysed:

Faith and Scepticism

The sci-fi thriller explores a bunch of themes and motifs throughout the movie to build a thrilling and thought-provoking exploration of faith, family, and the mysteries of the unknown. The movie extensively addresses questions of faith and belief, with Graham Hess serving as the central figure. In the face of tragedy, Graham, a former reverend who has lost faith, struggles with his belief in God. The alien invasion and the catastrophe it brings along with it challenge his skepticism and eventually lead to a restoration of his faith.

Aliens or Demons?

Signs (2002) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analysed
Another still from Signs (2002)

In “Signs,” demons, not aliens, invade Earth, and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up. For instance, consider the words of the former Reverend Graham to his daughter Bo, describing her appearance as “angelic” at birth. Bo always leaves the water glasses half-full around the house because of her peculiarity with water. These glasses of water ultimately kill the demon that breaks into their home. The angel figure “Bo” blessed the water, making it not just water but holy water that killed the demon.

The news that the Middle East had discovered the aliens’ weakness is more evidence to back my argument. Many people consider the Middle East to be the holy land, which suggests that these extraterrestrials were actually demons. Furthermore, it’s hardly a coincidence that a priest who lost faith in God is confronted with a demon problem. In addition, Bo experiences a number of near-true prophetic visions.

Family and Unity

During times of crisis, the significance of familial bonds and the importance of unity among family members are significant themes. Despite internal disputes and struggles, the Hess family unites in the face of the alien invasion’s potential death threat. In addition, the family is ultimately the most crucial factor in their ability to survive. We can see that Graham Hess’s late wife, Colleen Hess, asked Graham to tell Merrill to “swing away” in the final moments of her life before she passed away. In addition, Bo experienced prophetic visions that foretold the possibility that Morgan would pass away.

In light of this, she tells Graham that she doesn’t want him to die. She doesn’t say this to anyone else except for Graham. Throughout the crisis, we see Graham and Merrill trying to strike a balance between their skepticism and their beliefs. We can see that Graham had a substantial amount of skepticism, and Merrill counterbalances that with his belief. The experience tests and ultimately strengthens the bond between Graham, Merrill, Morgan, and Bo because they are dependent on one another for comfort and survival.

Fear of the Unknown

“Signs” investigates both a primal fear of the unknown and the mysteries of the universe. The crop circles and odd happenings instill a sense of dread and uncertainty in both the characters and the viewers. This is because the plot plays on the audience’s fear of the unknown and the strange. It is this fear that ultimately causes the characters in the movie to react with either a fight-or-flight response. The depiction of the characters in the midst of the crisis is quite unassuming, almost as if they are tapping into the most fundamental aspects of their personalities.

Redemption and Healing

One of the most important themes throughout the movie is Graham’s journey towards redemption and healing. By confronting the alien invasion and discovering a purpose in safeguarding his family, he gradually overcomes his loss of faith and the struggle he has been having with grief and loss. The movie’s events eventually lead to his renewed faith, which even strengthens his beliefs.

Signs and Symbolism

The movie’s title alludes to the significance of signs and symbolism woven throughout the narrative. Within the plot context, the crop circles function as fascinating symbols that push the story forward, forcing the characters to wrestle with more profound questions regarding their very existence and where they fit in the universe. In addition, some signs point to the impending chaos. For instance, the dogs‘ barking and going wild, Bo’s prophetic visions and revelations, the fleeting glimpses of demons, and similar occurrences are all examples of the importance of signs throughout the movie.

Read More: Every M. Night Shyamalan Movie Ranked

Trailer:

Signs (2002) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Signs (2002) Movie: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix
Signs (2002) Movie Genre: Mystery & thriller/Sci-fi, Runtime: 1h 46m
Where to watch Signs

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