...was M. Night Shyamalan!
So, I'm catching up a bit with posting now, but I have had a lot of time to think about one of the latest movies I've seen. Despite all the naysaying leading up to opening day of The Happening, I was pretty excited to see it. I even avoided internet spoilers so that I could finally have an unspoiled Shyamalan experience. Violence, gore, Marky Mark's third nipple (which even though it's always covered, it's a comfort to know it's there, right?), Zooey's watery dinnerplate eyes - all of these things made me want to see a horror movie in theaters on Friday the 13th. I'm mostly ambivalent towards suspense movies, and haven't seen a scary movie in theaters since 28 Days Later (Land of the Dead doesn't count since it wasn't scary, and I Am Legend doesn't count because I was bored). So The Happening was working for me riiiight up until the trailers beforehand indicated what kind of a movie-going experience I was about to embark on.
You know how the tone of the trailers shown before a film give a hint about the distribution company and target audience? Well, before The Happening, there was a trailer for Mirrors, which basically took every horror movie trope that everyone got tired of 4 Japan-remakes ago, and jumbled them together into a movie with no villain. Creepy little boy? Check. Frightened mom? Check. Slowly revealing the distorted image of the expected? Check. Oh but guess what the premise is that your reflection is what kills you. The following paraphrased conversation brought to you by my friend Evan and I:
Evan: What if your worst fear...
Me (in scared mom voice): Why are you going upstairs, Billy?
Evan (as creepy Billy): But they told me to, mommy!
Me: Who? Who told you, Billy?
Evan: MY REFLECTION!!
Seriously, anything could kill you in a movie that stupid. What if your worst fear was...your own hat! a doorknob! the existence of Disaster Movie! Okay, that last one is actually pretty scary... But I digress...
So anyway, The Happening was pure shit pretty much from moment one. I mean, some of the deaths were pretty cool, and I am definitely susceptible to the music and slow pans of suspense building, but just like in The Village or Signs, there was rarely any payoff. In the days since I watched it, I've been trying to decide if it was just bad, or if it veered over to "so bad it's good" territory, and I think I'm leaning towards the latter. Some of the cool deaths are gooey and entertaining (jumping off buildings, headbutting a house), and some are stupidly funny (feeding oneself to lions one limb at a time, throwing oneself in front of a lawnmower?). There are also a lot of unintentionally hilariously delivered lines that are very quotable ("Don't take her hand unless you mean it!" "Hot dogs get a bad rap. They have a fun shape, and they're full of protein!" "Why're you eyein' my lemon drink?!")
But for every nugget of comedy gold, there was a plodding twenty minutes worth of horrible directing. I will not fault Mark "Rock Star" Wahlberg, Zooey "The Happening" Deschanel, or even John "The Pest" Leguizamo for their wooden performances when I'm pretty much convinced that Shyamalan just demands the worst out of his actors. The story unfurled in the first third of the action, by which point everyone in the audience I saw it with had long since stopped caring. The relationship between the leads was unnaturally and unnecessarily tense, and primarily hinged on the color of Marky's clammy mood ring. When the two of them walked into the onslaught of neurotoxin dust that they were sure was going to kill them, I was convinced that they were going to start making out and then suicidally eating each other's faces off. Alas, this did not happen.
In the cheapest system of deus ex machina in practice these days, all explanation about the premise was revealed through news broadcasts, which is just such a coward's way out. *coughSIGNScough* As soon as the credits rolled, there was a lot of loud booing in the theater, so that should be a pretty good indicator that audience opinions were in line with mine, and all those reflected on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
Don't see The Happening. Or, get drunk with a huge group of friends and then sneak in to The Happening. That would probably be a fun evening. Drink every time the trees/plants/wind move menacingly. Drink every time the mood ring is mentioned/present. Drink every time you laugh nervously or earnestly at the movie. Get dialysis. Repeat.