Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Happening (2008)


It might be cliché, but it has to be said: The Happening is not happening.

Shyamalan has proved to us earlier that he can be as good as the best with masterpieces of cinema with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Yet, since then, he has declined steadily. Signs and Village were good movies, but with Lady in the Water and now The Happening, he has touched a level of incompetence that could never have been expected of him.

The Happening is about a pandemic that is gripping north-eastern USA. It starts with a stunning sequence of events that show people succumb to an unspecified threat – the brilliance of this opening repeated only once more for a five-minute sequence towards the end of the movie. Unfortunately, Shyamalan’s writing is a big let-down for the rest. As the focus moves from metropolitans to towns and from crowds to smaller groups, the sense of fear is lost – the biggest sin a horror movie can commit. In the oft repeated criticism for its director, this movie would have been best served as a half-hour episode of Twilight Zone to make it really work.

To add woe, the actors do not do much to better the experience – Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are grossly miscast as the protagonists. Any of his previous leading men (Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Giamatti) can be imagined to have done a better job for the Science teacher that Wahlberg plays. The camera scrutinizes the performance to a degree that requires an actor with strength in emotions – Wahlberg instead brings a physical presence that the role does not need. Zooey, on the other hand, struts around like in a Disney movie, not for once threatened by the pandemonium.

This time though, Shyamalan humbles his vanity – you don’t see him on screen. He now should swallow his pride and leave the writing to the writers. Armed with a better script, we can still expect Shyamalan to make his future movies worth waiting for. For now it is only the memory of the opening sequence, which can be proclaimed as mind-numbing greatness, that is really worth taking away from this movie.

My rating --> 1.5 of 5

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