June 17, 2008
"We've sensed it. We've seen the signs. Now...It's Happening." That's not just the official tagline for The Happening, it's also a perfect summation of my expectations of M. Night Shyamalan's latest offering. I "sensed" it would be the uncontested worst film of the year, I saw the "signs" (simply his last movie, Lady in the Water), and now, indeed, it "happened". On Friday the 13th, Shyamalan pulled the veil off his latest disaster, and once again people are flocking to see it. I vowed I wouldn't pay for it. In a fit of confusion, I ended up paying for it. At least I illegally paid the student price, saving $1.50 in one of my wisest financial decisions in years.
To paraphrase the classic bit from Denny Green, it's clear that Shyamalan "is who we thought he was": the most self-righteous and contemptuous filmmaker currently working in Hollywood. It would defy logic to argue that he's unaware of how bad his movies are, but instead of seeking to make any improvements, he stubbornly continues to try to convince us that we're idiots, and that his conspicuous messages are the new gospel for mankind.
That's the real problem. It's not that the writing and acting are horrid, or that sense and logic are missing from the first frame onward, or that the thrills and chills are about five movies tired now after The Sixth Sense. It's not the terrible supporting characters or the unconvincing special effects or even the worst fake newscasts I've ever seen.
It's that in the middle of all of this, just when the movie should start making fun of itself, Shyamalan again throws a serious message or clichéd fright (e.g., doll on the bed) at us. In short, the difference between garbage like Jumper or Meet the Spartans (my favorite whipping post if you didn't notice) and garbage like The Happening is that garbage like The Happening tries to be serious.
Although Shyamalan preaches, "This is the best B movie that you will ever see," his sincere attempts at romance, suspense, and drama, combined with the heavy-handed message about Mother Nature's wrath, prove (at least to me) that he's just making excuses for the terrible reception. He had plenty of opportunity to make this over-the-top ridiculous - if that was his intention. Instead, he predictably implies that we're morons for not getting it.
I saw The Happening to find out if he could make a movie more offensively awful than Lady in the Water. Is it? I still don't know since it seems comparing two epically bad movies is as difficult as comparing two epically good ones, but I nevertheless truly recommend seeing either one (don't pay for it) in order to sharpen your movie senses.