Recent alien-invasion movies seem to have forgotten that invading aliens are -- or should be -- scary. 'Skyline' and this weekend's 'Battle: Los Angeles' went the straight-action 'Independence Day' route. 'Paul' is a comedy; 'Cowboys & Aliens' looks like it will be an action-comedy hybrid. Who knows what the hell 'Transformers' was. It's a boring and disappointing trend, but it's also an excuse to look back at a movie that actually acknowledged the fact that an alien invasion would be an existentially frightening event: 'Signs.'

Everyone seems to have forgotten how scary 'Signs' was. Since the consensus on M. Night Shyamalan's career is currently unkind, what's most often recalled about the 2002 film is the silliness of the notion that a technologically advanced species of invading aliens would not be able to extricate itself from a pantry and would come unprepared for its intolerance of the most ubiquitous substance on its target planet.

These are fair but retrospective complaints, unlikely to occur to first-time viewers in the moment, especially when they're too busy creeping toward the edges of their seats. With its brilliant high concept (alien invasion as seen from the point of view of a single unassuming farm family), masterfully deliberate pacing, and brilliant use of off-screen space, 'Signs' is surely among the most frightening PG-13 horror movies of all time.
categories Features, Cinematical