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[Sundance 2014] Director William Eubank Previews Midnighter, “THE SIGNAL”

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While Sundance has grown intensely in both size and notoriety (likely the first thing that comes to mind when filmgoers hear the term ‘film festival’), it’s retained a significant, definitive quality: the element of surprise. A great many titles of the annual lineup do come with some level of anticipation, be it cast or filmmakers sure, but often its most discussed films seemingly come out of nowhere, flooring audiences and critics alike. In horror alone, this yearly tradition has yielded the likes of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and SAW. In keeping with this spirit, Fango has opted to take a look at two films in the 2014 midnight lineup that arrive with little awareness, but may make a big impression. Today, as the curtain raises on Sundance 2014: William Eubank’s THE SIGNAL.

In THE SIGNAL, “Nick and Jonah are MIT freshmen with a passion for hacking. While driving cross-country through Nevada with Nick’s girlfriend, Hailey, they follow rival hacker Nomad’s clues to a location 180 miles away. After a terrifying confrontation with Nomad in the middle of the desert, the trio regain consciousness in captivity. Struggling to comprehend the true nature of their confinement, they discover they are part of a plot much larger than themselves.”

FANGORIA: What is THE SIGNAL?

WILLIAM EUBANK: What is THE SIGNAL? It’s sort of a personal story about a kid trying to examine his emotional and logical self, is I guess what we could say. Or choosing between the two.

FANG: Some of the best genre stuff comes from very intimate places. How did you amplify those feelings into a horror/sci-fi concept?

EUBANK: I think that having big, crazy movie ideas and trying to find an intimate way to place a character in a crazy world just makes what that character is going through so much more amplified. It’s a lot more fun for me. I feel like I make movies for the 16 year-old version of myself. I always wanted to make movies about characters who are going through crazy stuff, but make them super real. I think that’s what’s so great about science-fiction, or the horror genre, or the fantastic genres.

FANG: Sometimes in fests with plenty of genre films, certain films may be horror or sci-fi, but may not necessarily be “midnight” movies. What do you think makes THE SIGNAL such?

EUBANK: [Laughs] You know, I have no idea. I’m just stoked to share it with the audience. My first film went to a lot of fantastic festivals and such, so I just sort of make the movie and wherever it lands, it lands. They think it’s a midnight movie, so that’s great. I’m proud to have that slot, it’s an honor. There’s obviously a lot of crazy elements.

FANG: Even submitting to a festival, is that almost the first step in seeing how folks will interpret your film?

EUBANK: Yeah, I see the writing process as the tip of the megaphone and by the time you get to the end of it, it’s all gone crazy and it’s coming out loud and different than you thought it could sound. You never know how people are going to react. It was a really good feeling to get that call, because you’re like, Oh, I must have done something right. I don’t know exactly what I did right, but something must have been right. That was a great first litmus test, I guess you could say.

FANG: Do you have any specific hopes for THE SIGNAL at Sundance and what happens?

EUBANK: Honestly, even going to the festival is just a bucket list thing for me. I’ve been going to Sundance forever. I used to work for Panavision, I used to go as an employee and talk about digital cameras and I’d just sit there dreaming of getting to go someday. This, I was just so overwhelmed. Oh my god, it’s happening, you know? I guess in terms of what happens afterwards, I’m pretty confident in the film as a whole, so I know it will find its audience one way or another. Just, hopefully people dig it and talk about it. What was this about, what was that about? As long as I get that response, I’ll be happy.

People will have questions, for sure. I think some people hate asking those questions; I live and breathe off of them. For me, my favorite films have always been films that have a little bit of poetry to them where it takes a little bit of interpretation; it’s not black and white. You’re forced to engage, you know, you have to walk away like, “What the…?” It’s something I tell my brother—I always see my movies with my brother, I wrote this with my brother and another friend—sometimes I see a movie and I don’t really enjoy it per se, but I catch myself thinking about days later, and then I’m thinking about later and I’m like, that was a really good movie and I can’t stop thinking about it. So hopefully, people enjoy mine and they’ll also think about it later.

THE SIGNAL premieres Monday, January 20 at 11:45 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre in Park City, Utah.

For more on Sundance, see our talk with THE BABADOOK director Jennifer Kent, and our in-depth interview with co-director Eduardo Sanchez in celebration of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s 15th Anniversary. 

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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