Last night I watched 'The Happening', and was disappointed to discover it wasn't about a hippy music festival. ZING! And if there was ever such a thing as a 'non-film', this would be it.
After M. Night Shyamalan had released a few films, folks started saying the biggest twist he could pull off would be by making a film without a twist, and The Happening could technically be that movie (let's ignore Lady In The Water, as that film's a complete waste of time).
For those who haven't seen the film, stop reading now. Unless you want me to ruin a film that manages to ruin itself within about 30 minutes.
Mark Wahlberg's a slightly geeky teacher, who uses hip kid speak like 'whack' so as to connect with his pupils. Bryce Dallas Howard isn't his wife, but the equally strange-eyed Zooey Deschanel is (although I kept thinking she was actually his kid sister, as they had as much chemistry as siblings, rather than lovers). They end up running away from the wind, with their friend's kid in tow.
Yeah, the wind. Talk about cheap special effects. The Happening has enough shots of treetops moving in the breeze you could cut all those bits out and compile a stock footage DVD.
Something's spreading throughout a section of the US, causing people to act a bit weird, then kill themselves. Initial scenes of builders throwing themselves off scaffolding, and later scenes of people hanging from trees and lying down in front of lawnmowers work well, building up a decent sense of "WHAAA?!". For the record, that's a technical movie term I learnt at film school. And then Mark Wahlberg meets a kooky gardener who suggests plants are attacking us.
Not triffids, or anything cool like that. Just spores and seeds and pollen. There's the suggestion early on that terrorists have found a way to trigger suicides in people, or maybe it's radiation or aliens...? Nope, sorry, it's killer hay fever. What this ASTOUNDING reveal means is that M. Night Shyamalan can use it to ram a grade school eco message down your throat: WE'RE KILLING THE PLANET AND NOW IT'S KILLING US! Holy shit, that's deep!
Which brings me neatly back to my initial comment of The Happening being a 'non-film'. There is no point to this movie, except to sporadically kill people off in interesting ways. When, at the end of the film, someone's figured out it was the plants sending out a 'warning', this still doesn't change anything. There's no panic about recycling, or scenes of world powers taking it seriously and trying to implement anti-pollution laws or anything like that. Instead, the explanation is regarded as a little bit "alright grandad, take your medicine", and everybody continues on just as they did before things went weird. And please, hold your applause for the proper ending, where the 'happening' starts to 'happen' in Russia or somewhere. OOOOOOEEEEEOOOOO! SPOOKY!
Nevermind the ill-judged humour, awful clunky dialogue (nb. Mr Shyamalan: nobody talks the way you have them speak in this movie. The 'hotdog' conversation actually counts as negative comedy), and complete non-starter of a plot. This film has maybe a couple of genuinely excellent scenes, and one of them 'happens' right near the end, at an old farm. Although 'props' (as Wahlberg's character would say) have to go to Shyamalan for having two kids get shotgunned at point blank range. Other than that, The Happening is a total waste of time.
And why is it called The Happening? I think once in the whole film Wahlberg goes "what's happening?" - the rest of the time everyone keeps calling it 'an' or 'the' Event. I think the biggest twist M Night Shyamalan pulled off is convincing the world he's a decent filmmaker. ZING!