If an engrossing, well-made film contains a theme or side-plot that I find tedious or distasteful, I’ll simply erase it in my head. Or, you know, I’ll put it into a box, and then put the box under the bed — problem solved. Example: I completely ignored the allegory about faith in M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs (’02) and just concentrated on the excellent direction of the scary alien scenes (on the roof, in the cornfield, in the pantry).

Mel Gibson‘s Graham Hess had renounced God and the priesthood after his wife was killed in an auto accident, and I brushed that shit off like dandelion pollen. Hess’s faith is restored at the end after his asthmatic son (Rory Culkin) has been spared and the aliens have been vanquished, and I couldn’t have cared less. I remember a dispute with David Poland about this. He was saying “but it’s a religious allegory…it’s all about God and faith,” and I would say “if that’s what defined the movie for you, knock yourself out, but for me the faith stuff was like a fly buzzing around the kitchen…swat, swat.”

Signs was an absolutely top-tier alien movie, period. End of discussion group.

Recollection: The boys and I saw Signs at an all-media in Westwood in late July ’02. Dylan, then 12 and 2/3, got so scared at one point that he got up and hit the lobby to shake it off. Scary stuff always seemed to get to Dylan on a deeper level than it did with Jett. When Dylan was a toddler I’d get on my knees and growl like a lion as I chased him around the house, and I remember one time when Dylan felt it had gotten a little too real. He had a pleading look on his face as he said, “No lion.”