Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: 'The Happening'

I WANT MY 10.50 BACK! Ok, it was a matinee, so I only spent 8.50; but...c’mon! Weren’t those 90+ wasted minutes worth anything???

The one-hit wonder, M. Night Shyamalan, will NEVER see another dime of my money (ok, two hits if you count ‘Unbreakable’, and I’m willing to make concessions there). But what has he done for us THIS millennium? And yes, technically ‘Unbreakable’ WAS made in 2000, but...who cares?

In ‘Signs’, the Hitchcockian wannabe son of Philadelphia offered up a God who:

1. Inflicted a young boy with severe asthma.
2. Blessed a little girl with an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
3. Ruined a man’s budding sports career.
4. Cut a minister’s wife in half, causing him to lose his religious faith.

All this to drive off an alien invasion by creatures who ran about haphazardly on foot, were naked, afraid of water, possessed no weaponry that was effective beyond 6 inches, and who displayed a curious lack of ability when it came to opening doors. I’ve often imagined what the mop up operation must have been like, vigilante survivors canvassing the countryside and shooting strays, ala ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Only in this case, it would be posses of 10 year olds sporting super soakers, and water balloons. Teach them damned aliens to mess with Americuns, I’d say!

In ‘The Village’, a group of disenchanted neo-luddites sequester themselves away in a sort of anti-Disneyland (The WORLD of YESTERDAY!) inside what had to have been the world’s longest chain link fence, then teach their younguns that the bogeyman lurked just outside the compound waiting to eat them up, lest they stray and discover the ‘mysterious secret’. Unfortunately, they failed to account for possible illnesses or accidents in their plans, so when somebody gets knifed by the local ‘special person’, what do they do? What any reasonable person would do in such a situation, I suppose. They decide to SEND THE BLIND GIRL INTO THE WOODS! Yeah, that’s what they do, alright. Yup, that’s what they do. Yeppers. Yep, they...uh...send the...uh...blind girl into the woods. Yup. That’s what they do.

By the time ‘The Lady in the Water’ came out, I’d pretty much sensed the way the wind was blowing, and wisely skipped it. Everybody said it sucked, and I patted my wallet, and smiled to myself.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the trailers for ‘The Happening’ started showing up. Sigh...yes, I was intrigued. Why were those folks stabbing themselves in the head, and taking short walks off long buildings? And that lawnmover scene...YIKES! Of course, I was skeptical, and I discussed the pros and cons of attending with my boss (a movie buff who, after renting ‘The Village’ from NetFlicks, actually spit into the envelope before returning it). Finally we struck a deal...I’d go check out ‘The Happening’, he’d see ‘The Hulk’, and later we’d compare notes, and maybe save two admissions between us. And so, right after work on Friday the 13th (YES, and you don’t need to point it out!), I walked into a matinee showing of M. Night’s latest ‘event’.

THE TREES DID IT! There, I’ve spoiled it for you, and I’m GLAD! GLAD, do you hear me? GLAD!!! Of course, they telegraph this to the audience about five minutes into the movie, and pretty much say it straight out about 20 minutes in; so, no great loss. After that, it’s basically Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg running around Pennsylvania Dutch country with one after another disposable character (and yes, most of them ARE disposed of), being chased (metaphorically, of course), by trees, grass, and various sorts of creepy looking hibiscus bushes (I made that ‘hibiscus’ part up...I have absolutely no idea WHAT kind of bushes they were). Oh, and near the end, there’s a cameo by Betty Buckley as a crazy woman, in one of the most ridiculous cases of ‘pad the film, pad the film, pad pad pad the film’ I’ve ever seen.
After that, the crisis was over, there were a couple of obligatory wrap-up scenes, and then, the end...or, IS IT??????????????????????????????????????

Now, the reason I’m offering this movie review on my antinatalism blog, is because here we have another case of an ‘end of the world’ flick (at least, from a human perspective...this was definitely a‘green’ scenario’), that totally cops out at the end. Not only does the threat end abruptly, and after only a day or so, but the female protaganist winds up preggers. It’s just another case of mixed-message denial ala ‘Children of Men. "Wow, we’ve really fucked things up this time! Say, how’s about we breed another passel o’ critters, and do it again?!" And this right after adopting the child of Marky Mark’s best friend, who killed himself along with all the others, during the 24hr suicide spree (Wow! I just realized that I'd failed to mention the natural environment was making people commit suicide...silly me!). But of course, adoption just isn’t the same as breeding 1, or 2, or 12 of your own, I guess (The uterus is NOT a clowncar!).

If the extended DVD version comes out with the aftermath story, where crowds of theatre-goers around the country emulate the Betty Buckley head-banging scene on the backs of the chairs in front of them, maybe it’ll be worth a watch. Otherwise, skip this piece of crap, and spend the money on a vasectomy. You really don’t want to have kids subjected to this kind of stuff when it shows up on TV at 2 in the morning, 20 years from now. Or, maybe in 6 months.


M. Night is now quoted as saying, " This is the best B movie you will ever see, that's it." Meanwhile...

His movie sits at 21 on the RottenTomatoMeter as of this writing.

People are dedicating blogs to the sole purpose of warning the public about how much 'The Happening' sucks.

Many critics are predicting 'Worst Film of the Year' status, and some are predicting this marks the end of the M. Night's career.

As far as the 'best B movie' ever? Puleeaaseeeeeeeee! Please consider the following list an alternative, and superior, source for your B movie entertainment needs:

The Blob
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
Forbidden Planet
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
It Came from Outer Space
The War of the Worlds
When Worlds Collide
Death Race 2000
Night of the Living Dead
The Fly
The Tingler
The Clonus Horror

And one of my all-time faves:

The Day the Earth Caught Fire

And of course, there are loads of MST3K treatments floating around in the video stores, as well as online. Buy, rent, or download, and enjoy! And skip 'The Happening'. Trust me on this...it just ain't happening.

Good night, M. Night.

*My daughter is pissed because I forgot some modern B classics, so I'll add them here:

They Live
Escape from New York
Maximum Overdrive

Oh, and let's not forget Vincent Price's 'The Last Man on Earth' and it's 70's remake 'The Omega Man' with Chuck Heston (the jury's still out on Will Smith's 'I Am Legend'.

Ugh...this could go on forever!


Sister Y said...

Jim my brother, apparently the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention agrees with you.

(These are the same folks who diluted the seriousness with which people take their cause by complaining about a Super Bowl ad that showed a robot getting laid off and jumping off a bridge.)

Actually M. Night Shyamalan is my favorite director working outside of Asia right now. From what I understand, he's really unpopular - I'm surprised (but pleased) that they still let the dude make movies.

Signs is my favorite of his movies. I don't think he's advocating a particular world view - in light of his other work, it's almost as if he's mocking that sort of Penglossian world view. If you're ever in my part of the world I will totally fight a duel with you over his honor, preferably with vodka as the weapon.

Anonymous said...

Curator: I'll admit, I was sucked in by the performances in 'Signs', and even somewhat in 'The Village' (well, maybe halfway through for that one). But I don't see much to his directorial style beyond framing half the film in closeup, and his storywriting ability is just godawful atrocious! At the showing of 'The Happening' I attended, as soon as the credits started rolling, everybody stood up at once and shuffled silently out the door. It was as if we'd had the wind knocked out of us (and not in a good way). I think the guy blew his wad early on, and has nothing left to say. Like many reviewers, I found myself wondering how anybody in charge actually let this piece of crap be released. It was utterly disappointing, through and through.