Your initial response to the first trailer for The Signal may be confusion; for all of the footage on display, and the copious amount of Laurence Fishburne dialogue, there’s remarkably little in the clip that lets us connect the dots on the film’s plot. After just a couple minutes’ worth of material, we’re still just as in the dark and hopelessly discombobulated as the film’s hero, Nick Easton (The Giver‘s Brenton Thwaites), caught in between cryptic voice over inquiries and destructive imagery that calls movies like Akira to mind.
So, in other words, the tease is a great success, because in all likelihood, director William Eubank isn’t cutting previews so that he can answer all of your questions about The Signal in advance of its release. The sign of a good trailer, after all, lies in its ability to pique the interest of its potential audience; for fans of mind-bending science fiction/horror hybrids, the above promo should do just that effortlessly.
Let’s start with the basics and clear up one potential conflation here: no, Eubank’s film isn’t a follow-up to 2008’s low-budget horror gem The Signal (at least not as far as we can tell based on first impressions). Instead, it’s a story about college students (led by Thwaites, as well as No One Lives‘ Beau Knapp and Bates Motel‘s Olivia Cooke) whose passion for hacking takes them on a jaunt into the Nevada desert to find a fellow hacker named Nomad. The encounter leaves them terrified and ultimately unconscious; when they wake up, they’re in captivity, with no idea what happened to them or why they’re being detained at all.
That still leaves a huge amount of narrative unaccounted for, though imaginative audiences may start to fill in the blanks on their own and speculate as to The Signal‘s true nature just based on the relentless weirdness seen in the trailer. One thing’s for certain: whatever “the signal” actually is, and whatever has happened to Nick and his friends, he certainly looks agitated by the time this elusive bit of marketing ends.
Eubank, a career cinematographer and director of photography, waded into the waters of directing his own features back in 2011 with Love, a space drama movie (and a distant cousin to classics like 2011: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Moon) that’s elliptical in its own ways; The Signal appears to build off of his penchant for mystery, while echoing the fluid look and feel of trippy, cerebral arthouse films like last year’s Upstream Color.
And if the new trailer isn’t enough, take another gander at this pixelated poster featuring Fishburne’s masked mug:
Combine the visual identity of The Signal with all of the cool, near-apocalyptic stuff seen in the trailer, and you’ve got a movie that’s well worth getting excited about. Whether Nick really is an alien, or something more after his run-in with Nomad, is something that remains to be seen when the film opens this summer, but you should keep your ears peeled for The Signal until then.
The Signal opens in US theaters on June 13th, 2014.