Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Happening

Oh M. Night Shyamalan, where did you go wrong? The Sixth Sense was great, several bricks were shat, and the twist ending is right up there with "The Narrator is Tyler Durden" and "Rosebud was his sled" as far as fame goes, and well deserved, it was one of the twists that really changed the movie upon rewatching it. Sure, some of the later movies didn't quite live up to the greatness, Signs, The Village, Lady In The Water, these weren't great, in retrospect they were pretty shit, but at least the two former had some scaryness going for it. Lady in the Water had... uh... I'll have to get back to you on that one. Annoying strawmen of people criticizing the director? Anyway, despite my vitriolic attitude towards his works, it wasn't until I saw this film that I realized just how far the mighty hath fallen. Spoilers as usual.

So, The Happening. This story follows Eliot Moore and his incredibly creepy wife, Alma, who, despite being unsettling enough for a horror film on her own, and possibly a few sequels, apparently isn't supposed to be creepy, as they flee from the titular... well happening.

The happening is people going suicidal due to a neurotoxin that causes people to kill themselves. Now, this being a Shyamalan film, there's also a very prominent B-plot, to the point where I'm considering if maybe the whole "suicide plague"-thing is the B-plot, where Mr. and Mrs. Moore are growing distant, their marriage slowly disintegrating. The twist, or what goes for a twist in this movie, is that the plants have had it with humanity's shit, and is now releasing the neurotoxin whenever there's larger groups of humans around. Apparently, their chlorophyll rage can be quelled by either the power of love or exceedingly suicidal idiocy, but I'll get back to that later.
Scary, no?

So, what's the problem with this, movie? I'd say there's several, but it'd help if the man playing the main character, Mark Wahlberg, formerly of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch fame, could... you know, act. Seriously, this man has all of one expression, one tone of voice. Oh yes, it's Dull Surprise all the way, sure, he's not quite as bad as the actor playing his wife, but she's not the main character, and as such, it's not as catastrophically bad for the movie. Seriously, there's one line in the movie, where Elliot tries to be diplomatic with a potted plant, only for it to realize it's a plastic plant. This could be pretty hilarious. Just the slightest hint of deadpan, or exasperation, hell, just a relatively minor change in tone could make this scene funny, as I'm pretty certain it was supposed to be.

The Silver Screen cannot contain the raw emotion of Mark Wahlberg

Also, I'm pretty sure this is just a problem with my twisted sense of humor, but this movie's attempts at being frightening also falls flat. Seriously, large parts of the population is killing themselves, this should be scary. Instead, most of the deaths feel like a parody. One memorable kill is when Mark Wahlberg is left looking in... well... dull surprise as a survivor starts up a big-ass lawnmower before laying down in front of the thing. Judging by the music, this is supposed to be scary. Needless to say, it really doesn't work.

Speaking of things this movie doesn't do well, let's talk about the science, although it's more appropriate to talk about it's attitude towards science. I'm not fanatical about it, but I'm of the opinion that the scientific method is quite solid as far as getting answers about the universe goes, and the philosophy behind it is quite solid. Therefore, I find it infuriating when the movie opens with Mark Wahlberg's character, a science teacher, having a long speech about how science is pretty much useless, and nature does shit that nobody can explain because... nature did it, I guess. I just can't get over that. Had he been an English teacher, or a social studies teacher, or any other sort of a teacher, it could make sense, but a science teacher telling people that science can't explain shit? Jesus and a half, Shyamalan, I'm getting the impression you want to make a point here.
Again, as a Shyamalan movie is want to do, the climax of this movie is a little odd. To be specific, our two main characters end up sitting in the dark, talking about their relationship. Yeah, not surprising, pretty much every Shyamalan film I've seen, sans Lady In The Water, I think, builds up towards the climax like this. It seems to point towards Shyamalan preferring to do drama, despite never really doing any straight dramas. Anyway, large talky bits pass, it's difficult to care, since the acting's wooden and the writing artificial. Then comes the part that slays me. Our heroes are caught in separate buildings, with murderous plants separating them, but when they work out their relationship problems, they decide they'd rather die together, and they go out in the meadow OF DEATH.

Not pictured: Death

You'd think that this would be the end of our heroes, but for some reasons they are unaffected by the neurotoxin. Not quite sure why. Either, their love stopped the plants, their apparently suicidal stupidity made the plants realize there wasn't much more to be done, or they just got stupid lucky. I kinda get the feeling the "power of love"-thing was supposed to be the subtext, but it's so... disappointingly lame. I mean, I'm sure a talented director could make this work, but Shyamalan just ain't it.

So, in a nutshell, The Happening might be one of the most unintentionally hilarious films that was ostensibly supposed to be scary I have ever seen . I'm thinking someone should have a nice sit-down with Shyamalan and tell him that despite The Sixth Sense being quite good, him being a part of a movie's production doesn't automatically make it good. Luckily, the next few movies I plan to cover is somewhat better. Also, Halloween's coming up, so I guess something should be done with that.

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