Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Happening


After a hat-trick of hits with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, Night Shyamalan's films have seen a precipitous decline in quality. While The Village can be condoned as just the law of averages catching up with the filmmaker and The Lady in the Water can be forgiven as a misguided excursion into a genre he was unsuited for, there's no way to look at The Happening as anything but a desperate attempt by him to find box-office success. It hasn't worked. Unintentionally funny and campy, it is B-grade horror schlock parading as a serious horror movie.

From the premise to the execution to the resolution, everything in The Happening is silly. There is some intrigue initially as the characters - and we, the viewers - don't understand what is happening but once we learn what is behind the occurrences, the suspense is replaced by incredulity at what unfolds on screen. And even if we do buy into the silly premise, Shyamalan doesn't follow his own rules thereafter and seems to be making them up as he goes.

The film has a couple of creepy scenes(like a man's encounter with a lawnmower) and a couple of surprises(neither the timing nor the mode of elimination of a couple of characters is expected) but barring those, is completely devoid of chills or thrills. Its not easy to evoke a sense of dread from shots of trees shaking in the wind and the poor acting and the bad lines of dialog don't help. The film was advertised as Shyamalan's first R-rated film but the scenes pushing the film into 'R' territory feel forced and artificial. He was able to evoke atmosphere with a lot less in movies like The Sixth Sense and The Village.

I can't imagine a worse pair of lead performances in a major motion picture than the one given by Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel here. Wahlberg was good playing the casual, laidback guy in movies like The Italian Job but seems completely miscast here. There are times when we don't know if he is joking or being serious and its laughable when he cries or expresses his feelings to Zooey. She, for her part, looks dazed most of the time and her face rarely registers any other expressions.

4 Comments:

At 12:37 AM, Blogger skanda said...

The "Happening" was not really "Happening" and the slowpace really got into me..But there was some few genuine scares like people falling off the building and the scene where they see people Hanging from the trees. I would have bought the film if there was a proper explanation given by the director. Suprisingly there was no twist in the film unlike shyamalan's earlier films. I thought the old lady in the end might be the course for all the trouble..that would have been a jolt for the audience...

 
At 5:05 AM, Anonymous arun said...

I didn't think the movie was all that bad, in fact I liked it. The movie was slow at times, but every one of his movies moves slow... so I wasn't really surprised by that. It looked like the media went overboard trashing the movie, but now that I've read your review, it feels like they may have been genuine after all :-)

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Raju said...

Balaji, I wish to recommend you one blogger who writes only reviews; a lot of them, and pretty good. I have found several similarities between the writings of you both. Since I am not writing reviews myself, esp. for Hollywood movies, I read his first and wait for yours.
Oh, one major difference is he is a Kamal fan, but he likes movies like Baasha.. so, peace out!! :)

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

skanda, yeah some of the initial scenes were kinda creepy. that's shyamalan's strength and when he goes for overt gore(like the scene in the zoo) it becomes cheesy and funny.

the old lady's the cause? interesting line of thinking. i had lost all interest by the time she showed up and didn't expect anything at all :)

arun, u'll see that i never said the movie was slow or dragging. a relaxed pace is almost his signature. but it was the silliness that i couldn't take :)

raju, will chk him out :)

 

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