In premise, The Signal is astonishingly simple. Bruckner, Bush and Gentry have taken a leaf from films like Impulse (1984), Warning Sign (1985), George Romeros The Crazies (1973) and, in particular, the James Herbert novel The Fog (1975), which concern a catastrophic outbreak of mass insanity. Indeed, there was a minor spate of mass insanity outbreak films over the next couple of years with Pontypool (2008), Dead Air (2009), Nine Miles Down (2009), the remake of The Crazies (2010), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Patient Zero (2012) and Urge (2016). (The Signal is so simple in terms of its premise that the film plunges us into the midst of its outbreak of mass insanity with no explanation ever offered as to the cause of the signal).
As with any anthology, particularly one where the individual segments come from different hands, the episodes are different in tone. David Bruckners introductory segment, Transmission I: Crazy in Love, is the most sober and serious of the three. Bruckner follows Maya (Anessa Ramsey) as she leaves her lover Ben (Justin Welborn) and returns home to her husband Lewis (A.J. Bowen) just as the insanity breaks out and he beats one of his friends to death with a baseball bat. The insanity starts to break out around her in the apartment block and she makes an escape the following morning with Lewiss friend Rod (Sahr Nguajah).
This episode is straightforward and lacks any of the deadpan black comedy of the subsequent two. David Bruckner concentrates on the abrupt overturning of the familiar husband A.J. Bowen who becomes increasingly aggressive in his interrogation of Anessa Ramsey and where she has been, before he turns on his friend, yelling at about it being his house and in the next second whacks him with a baseball bat. With her escape into the apartment hallway, we are granted a vision of the sudden eruption of madness a man approaches a fleeing woman and cuts her throat with a pair of garden shears before Anessa Ramsey is rescued by her friend (Suehyla El-Attar) whose embrace suddenly becomes one that is trying to throttle her. And there is the morning after escape with Sahr Nguajah where he is suddenly shot by a uniformed woman in the street and then, after turning the car radio on, he abruptly turns and starts hitting Anessa Ramsey in the face with his fist.
Crazy in Love acts like an introduction to the nightmare but Jacob Gentrys Transmission II: The Jealousy Monster escalates it to something positively hysterical. You can tell from the moment the episode opens on Cheri Christian sitting at a dinner table talking to her husband about the dinner party before Gentrys camera switches around to show it is the husbands dead body sitting at the other end of the table. Gentry keeps putting the episode through increasingly more absurd spins as they are joined by various others, including neighbour Clark (Scott Poythress), A.J. Bowens Lewis from the first episode who has come searching for Maya, and party guest Jim Parsons (Chad McKnight). Jacob Gentrys take becomes progressively more blackly absurd with each turn the plot takes. The episodes focus is constantly shifting with us thinking one person is sane, only for them to start acting crazy the next minute. The deadpan dialogue that goes on as the group debate about whether to kill people knocking at the door; Chad McKnights straight-faced monologues about finding some pussy and having to kiss a dog at the last party; or when A.J. Bowen finds Cheri Christian and Scott Poythress dancing and she insisting that Poythress is her dead husband (whose body lies only a few feet away) are utterly hysterical. Some of the point-of-view shots where A.J. Bowen thinks that Cheri Christian is Maya or that Chad McKnight is the murdered Justin Welborn are very cleverly achieved.
Dan Bushs third and final episode, Transmission III: Escape from Terminus, wraps up the story, taking the point-of-view of Ben who, joined by a now crazed Clark, goes to Terminal 13 at Terminus station to find Maya, followed by a maddened Lewis, who is determined to get her back. Escape from Terminus follows the same blackly hysteric tone of The Jealousy Monster, although is not as effective. The episode does however offer up the films single most demented moment where Scott Poythress announces that he can electrically stimulate life back into Sahr Nguajahs severed head and then proceeds to have a conversation with the decapitated head, which even demands a cigarette from him. Scott Poythress gives a rather funny performance while under the influence of the signal.
David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry have each subsequently gone their own way. Dan Bush next directed the non genre Fight Fuck Pray (2008), the science-fiction film The Resurrection of William Zero (2014) and the horror film The Vault (2017). Jacob Gentry subsequently directed three other psycho films My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (2009), My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 2 (2010) and My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3 (2012) and the time paradox film Synchronicity (2015). David Bruckner made a return with episodes of the horror anthologies V/H/S (2012) and Southbound (2015) and the full-length The Ritual (2017).