25 July 2008
The Happening, dir. M. Night Shyamalan (2008)
I'm a sucker for apocalyptic survivor stories, let me say that first. My favorite book is Stephen King's The Stand, I can't seem to stop watching Romero's Dead series, I enjoyed the recent Right at Your Door, and I even have a soft spot for I Am Legend - although I think everyone involved should be dragged through broken glass for not sticking closer to the book.
So I was in from the word go when I heard about The Happening. Shitty title or not. The lesson, here, being that I really need to be more discerning.
People are dying all over New York City. Not just dying, but killing themselves - a woman stabs herself in the neck, people thrown themselves in front of cars, construction workers step off buildings into the open air. Off to a good start. Next, we're in Philadelphia. Mark Wahlberg is talking to his science class about the sudden disappearance of hundreds of thousands of bees. "Science will come up with some reason to put in the books, but in the end it'll be just a theory. I mean, we will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding."
So, now we have the film's thesis, and we can spend the next hour and a half not worrying why this is happening, and just be terrified by the fact that it is.
Turns out that the earth is sick of humanity and is trying to shake us like a bad cold. It's literally eco-terrorism.
Now I think that sucks.
Wahlberg and his band of survivors happen upon a model home in a community called Clear Hill (get it?) and see a billboard advertising same, with the slogan "You Deserve This!" (Get It?), but it would have been much more fun if we hadn't been told that it's some new (or primordial) toxins the plants are giving off that's causing all this to happen. It would have been far less heavy-handed if we'd been left in the dark, and allowed to figure it out on our own. Far less patronizing. As it is, it's just sad to watch all this talent - I'm talking about Zooey Deschannel, Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo - go to waste.