The Happening? Or The Crappening?
I finally saw M. Night Shyamalan's latest "masterpiece" today (what can I say? I get free tickets). It was actually more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It may not be a good horror film, but it's a great comedy.
The early scenes, where scores of New Yorkers stop what they are doing, start talking funny and then kill themselves in nasty ways, are quite disturbing. But once we meet teacher Marky Mark the film rapidly descends into complete silliness.
Wahlberg, who has been good in other roles, plays this character even more soft-spoken and wimpier than his character in Planet of the Apes. Needless to say, trying to get his students excited about disappearing honeybees is a losing battle. As the suicidal outbreak spreads, the story soon turns into a cross-country escape movie like War of the Worlds, except that instead of aliens the heroes are being chased by the wind blowing through the grass and trees (I kid you not). It turns out the trees are out to get us for what we've done to the planet, and this is just the warning for a far worse outbreak to come. Wahlberg and his wife Zooey Deschanel manage to survive and even pick up an instant daughter when his teaching friend leaves her an orphan.
Shyamalan has always been a better director than a writer, but in this film even his directing talent seems to fail him for the most part. Many supposedly scary or emotional scenes are laughable (although I think we were supposed to laugh at Wahlberg talking to a plastic plant) and most of the performances are flat. The gorgeous Deschanel, who is normally a bright spot in any film, seems completely lost here. On the other hand, we have Betty Buckley as a crazy religious woman who seems to have wandered in from a Stephen King film. Even the minor cast are laughable, including the most nervous Military Policeman in history.
It may sound like I hated the film, but I didn't. There are the seeds of a good paranoid nature gone wild film here (clearly The Birds was a major influence) and it was never boring. But Shyamalan clearly needs to try something different before he destroys what little is left of his reputation. Based on this film, a comedy wouldn't be such a bad idea.
In a related story, I noticed the film was banned in a town in South Wales because of their high suicide rate. Truth is stranger than fiction!