THE HAPPENING, M. Night Shyamalan 2008
After the bad taste The Village left, and not forgetting I thought Signs was a piece of crap, I reluctantly attacked Shyamalan’s latest work, and have to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
The director again deals with something shocking able to make people feel weak and scared, looking for an explanation for the chain of events they are witnessing involving death on massive scale.
Any given day, starting in Central Park, what first declared as a terrorist chemical attack strikes population causing them to self-inflict pain up to death. Extreme scenes occur one after another, and bulletins advise people to move westwards as mostly east coast largest cities have been the targets.
After explaining theories on the bees mysterious disappearance in science class , high school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), together with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), his colleague Julian (John Leguizamo) and little Jess catch a train to get away from Philadelphia. After a while, people start receiving news via cell phones also confirming mayhem in Philadelphia. To make things worse, trains stops for communications have been interrupted, leaving passengers at their own fate in the middle of nowhere.
News broadcast attacks have spread to minor populated towns, disclaiming terrorist attacks as the explanation for such horror.
At a certain point, Julian decides to divert towards Princeton leaving the others, in order to find his wife, who is no longer available on the phone, thus, Elliot and Alma will have to take care of Jess, and find a way out from this mess, however the menace is fast surrounding, same as desperation and hysteria in the small crowds trying to hide.
The first scenes in this film are outstanding and really shocking, immediately catching audience attention, and making you wonder an explanation for those extreme and chaotic moments. It reminds me so much to Stephen King’s Cell, released in 2006 as to think of some kind of “inspiration”. Then the getaway starts, seems like an Arcade videogame, passing through different obstacles, and getting harder gradually.
It’s fun for the first time I checked the time, there were only 25 minutes remaining, and although getaway could have been extended more without boring, my doubts started regarding the conclusion of the story, and the explanation for this horror. Unfortunately the explanation, more or less identical to Elliot’s beliefs, is solved with the extract of a tv interview, even with moral message about the way we’re messing with the planet we inhabit. That’s it. Ok, I can buy it, but what turns this into a cheap tale is so much love involved, as if true love could save anyone. What the hell is that? A Christian lecture about salvation? Because I’ve had plenty of them in my early years! How is that the movie starts with a scientific explanation of the bees extinguishing and then love is so highlighted?
Shyamalan’s definitely are not my cup of tea, he provides potential ideas, but sooner or later, they end up stinking. This is a clear example about how to life by one major blockbuster, such as the Sixth Sense was, and then despite the unability to deliver good product, survive in Hollywood highly supported by the industry, with amazing promotion and marketing keeping him well acclaimed.