"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue

**Find The Vault of Horror on Facebook and Twitter, or download the new mobile app!**

**Check out my other blogs, Standard of the Day, Proof of a Benevolent God and Lots of Pulp!**

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"The Happening" Is Anything But

It's pretty disconcerting to watch a once promising and inventive young writer/director run out of ideas and devolve into tedious self-parody. But that's exactly what seems to have happened with M. Night Shyamalan--and that's coming from a long-time booster of his work, who would go see anything with his name attached.

At one time I would've considered him the finest director in horror and/or sci-fi. The Sixth Sense was a revelation. Unbreakable was my favorite of all his films, the most true-to-life superhero film ever made. Signs was flawed, but still highly effective. And I even enjoyed the unfairly maligned The Village. Then came Lady in the Water, a movie so bad I couldn't even get through it. Surely, it had to be an aberration. I would give the man another chance. That chance was The Happening.

A terrific concept--an unexplainable epidemic of mass suicide--is pitifully squandered. The script is the kind of ham-fisted tripe that would get a first-time screenwriter booted from a producer's office, and the acting is laughably bad. This is especially true of female lead Zooey Deschanel, who gives one of the worst performances I can remember seeing in a major dramatic film. Even Mark Wahlberg, who is usually excellent, was painful to watch. I guess you can chalk it up to the crucial influence the right director can have on his actors.

And the big bombshell plot twist, the cause of the epidemic? Don't even get me started. The word "lame" doesn't even begin to do it justice.
Clearly, Shyamalan was aware of the reaction to Lady in the Water, and was out to prove something. This is evidenced by The Happening's R rating--almost as if the director was saying, "OK, now I mean business." That's why it's so shocking the extent to which he dropped the ball. There are a couple of powerful moments, including a tense scene outside a locked cabin, and some of the suicide footage is genuinely disturbing. But all in all, it's hard to imagine this is the same guy who was nominated for an Oscar ten years ago.

I will not be running to the theater to see the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, you can be sure of that. I've learned my lesson. I'll wait for Netflix--if that. And I doubt I'm the only one. Something tells me there's going to be a mysterious mass epidemic of people ignoring Mr. Shyamalan's movies. However, this epidemic is far from unexplained.


Wes Fierce said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you and put this film in the "Good" category.

I inadvertently read the spoiler for the movie this past winter and immediately rolled my eyes, but it wasn't entirely accurate, thankfully. I saw all of the negative reviews pop up for it the last few days, but everyone I know wanted to go see it so I started cautioning them in case it really was terrible. After finally seeing it, I was actually relieved that the explanation was more grounded in reality and that the film is decidedly not terrible. Could the event in the movie actually happen? I wouldnt be surprised if it did. But everyone keeps forgetting that this is just a story someone created to entertain an audience and I thought he did a really good job of explaining what was going on. I could have done without the science lesson dragging on for the entire film, but I digress. I know I was definitely entertained. Was it by Mark or Zooey's acting, no. But ive never expected much out of them anyway. Complaints about the dialogue? It did seem like M Night was a little off his game, but it's not like he has'nt already proven himself as a writer. Those quirks seem to be taking all the heat, which is funny because I was more interested in everything else that was going on in the movie. I thought the film, as a whole, was really well made and I loved the atmosphere it created. Im looking forward to writing a more detailed analysis in the future.

I mostly wanted to say A. Thank you for not re-writing the entire screenplay as the intro to your review. B. Thank you for not comparing the film to Star Wars or Donnie Darko and C. Thank you for being respectful and not writing as many metaphors as you could about how bad you think M Night is as a filmmaker, instead of actually basing your opinion on anything substantial.(referring to B-D for all of those, btw)

Anonymous said...

Not sure about this one but then I never make it to the cinema these days. I didn't realise M. Night Shyamalan directed Unbreakable. That is one awesome movie and I think his best of the lot.

Thanks Wes good to see another side of this one as many are bagging it.

Anonymous said...

RayRay - Ok, I didn't see this yet, but I have read a few spoilers. I, like B-Sol, am a booster of M Night, but switch around Unbreakable and Lady In the Water - no accounting for taste. But when the spoilers for The Happening - jeez louise, I don't think I want to see it now. Silly, silly, silly. It's just reaching a tad far for that incredible "twist" he is so well known for.

B-Sol said...

Ray, steer clear of this one, trust me. I'd hate for this to be the last movie you see before you walk down the aisle. That's just bad karma.

cindy said...

i saw it this weekend. i was disappointed, but was in a small way expecting it. i liked the first few films by m.night, but after the village, i and the definate "do not waste money on this!" warning to not see the lady in the water, (which i was glad of, after catching a few short glimpses on cable) i wasn't real sure about this one, but hubby wanted to see it. he liked it o.k though.

B-Sol said...

The trailers made it look great. I definitely won't be fooled next time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...