Sunday 5 October 2008

Review: The Happening

Year: 2008.
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Screenwriter: M Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo

Midway through The Happening, while the main group are trying to escape the "happening" that is occurring in the film, they run past a sign of a model home which screams "YOU DESERVE THIS" at the top of the board it's printed on. Subtly...has never been M Night's thing. Yes basically if the "wind" decides to attack our brains and causes us to commit suicide we only have our self to blame. This is M Night Shyamalan we are talking about here. The mans smug ego allowed himself to play a Jesus-like character in his own film Lady in the Water. In that same film he unleashes an petty attack on film critics who may not like his films (cause that will warm them to you mate). In The Happening all of us are to blame for the world being shit and nature is gonna tear the audience a new one.

It's going to be be hard for this director to win people back to his camp after his last celluloid "disasters" but for me The Happening at times seemed a step in the right direction. Individual scenes reminded me of how competent he is as a filmmaker. Shyamalan has always been able to provide scenes that can unsettle and here is no exception. It's the simple things that freaked me out the most. People stopping and walking backwards, the babbling talk that stuttered out of the confused peoples mouths before taking their own life. it's these things that M Night is good at and here I saw glimpses of the man who wowed many with The Sixth Sense. It's a pity that those flourishes are quite brief. What's more upsetting is that these moments are undermined by the many negative points of the movie.

Many reviewers have mentioned the unintentionally comic death scenes that plague the film. i won't mention them here as they're detailed highly elsewhere. My issues with the film have more to do with the basic mechanics of the film. The film's leads are very weak in many aspect for example. Their reasons for estrangement are limp, the casting of Whalberg and Deschanel are extremely off and the acting is incredibly flat. It's hard to keep interested in the characters because of the lack attention the writer/director has placed with them.

Other problems include the extremely jarring moments of awkwardness that crops up constantly, usually after one of the extras finishes sprouting off some bad dialogue. Is Shyamalan trying to pass this off has tension? I hope not as the actors look quite embarrassed to be fair. At times the film has editing that makes student films look like masterpieces. In tightening those little moments in the films quieter moments, the film would probably feel less contrived.

What upsets me the most is that the films basic plot isn't that bad. This world is ever-evolving and the idea of nature fighting back is strangely becoming more and more plausible. As species die off and evolve, Shyamalan's film reminds us of how fragile our race really is...if only briefly. The Happening needed another few rewrites, some stronger actors and some tidying up in the editing room. After the Lady in the Water debacle, it seems that Shyamalan wouldn't listen to reason, even if you told him. That's a shame because his talent is slowly being consumed by his ego.

Note: Sorry for the piss poor review It's been a while.