Monday, October 27, 2008
The Top Ten Things I learned from The Happening
This weekend,I kept my resistance to seeing Saw V strong(my sister,however,went by herself to a opening day matinee and was deeply disappointed)and chose to get my scary movie fix from The Happening on DVD.
As some of you may know,I am a big M. Knight Shyamalan fan and can easily slip into a good hearty defense for some of his lesser appreciated films like Unbreakable,The Village and even Lady In The Water. But,there comes a time when a true fan has to get real about the quality of the work his/her favorite artist is currently bringing to the table and my time is now.
As much as I would like to pin the blame for this clunker on the actors(Mark Wahlberg is beyond dullard here and Zooey Deschanel's entire performance is strictly deer caught in the headlights mode),the true fault lies in the script written by M. Knight.
He starts off with a great concept for a horror movie;a mysterious airborne toxin is triggering suicidal impulses in people. The attacks begin in major cities,which leads folks to take off for the countryside but people are in just as much danger there,perhaps even more so due to the cause of the assault surrounding them on all sides.
Sounds pretty terrifying,doesn't it? Yet,as things start getting worse and worse,the fear factor keeps plummeting down to farcical levels.
A major reason for that is the lackluster energy given to the story. One of the best elements of an M. Knight movie was the full-on emotional connection to the center theme thread of whatever film he created. It's what made The Sixth Sense so compelling in the first place and even held together a so-so film like Signs(which I liked at the time,but it's not a movie I would stop and watch if I came across it while channel surfing).
Here,the characters and their jeopardy seemed to be utterly remote concerns and the whole eco-terror angle might make Al Gore shake in his boots,but it didn't do jack for me.
Part of the plot had science teacher Elliot(Wahlberg)trying to work out the problems in his marriage with Alma(Deschanel)but most of the time, that came off as completely inappropriate,particularly due to the fact that they were supposed to be watching out for their friend's young daughter entrusted to their care. Not to mention that I've seen sock puppets with more passionate interaction than these two onscreen.
Basically,M. Knight really dropped the ball on this one. Well,these things do happen even to the best of us and hopefully we'll get a much better movie from him the next time around. A word to the wise;please don't cast Marky Mark again.
He can be decent in some parts but not in ones where he either comes off like a jerk for making a lame joke about infidelity to his wife while they're fleeing an unknown danger or stupid with lines like "Be scientific,douchebag!"
While both my sister and I were let down by Hollywood horror this weekend,our spirits were revived by a so-bad-it's-good gem of a flick called Chopping Mall. It's an old school B movie from the 1980s that has dopey young people trapped in a mall and being hunted down by security robots gone wild. An extremely MST3K type of movie that is,alas,not on DVD but worth tracking down on VHS.
Before you seek that sucker out,take a gander of top ten lessons to learn from the sad scares of The Happening:
10) To be a good scientist,you must have a respectful awe for the laws of nature.
9) People find comfort in percentages.
8) Hot dogs get a bad rap.
7) It's not a good idea to confess an illicit tiramisu tryst with a co-worker to your husband while you are both on the run from a deadly toxin attack.
6) There are better ways to reassure your wife about her almost adultery than a crappy cough syrup story:
5) Even a crazy woman can tell when someone is chasing someone in a relationship.
4) Singing a Doobie Brothers song is not the best way to convince paranoid strangers that you're normal and that it's safe to let you inside their bunker.
3) If you feel the need to give verbal comfort to a plant,make sure that you're talking to a real one first:
2) Math riddles are not enough distraction for folks freaked by what they're seeing out of their car windows.
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