Movie Review: The Happening – Gary Young MySpace Blog

Movie Review: “The Happening”


I like to write.  It’s fun.  There’s a whole “new” style that’s popular.  I think the internet has a lot to do with it.  Anonymous sarcasm and parody.  First person, third person omniscient, sarcastic sardonic asshole, anonymous forum flamer ignoramous.  You know the type.  The Mr. Cranky guys are packing it in after 12 years, by the way.  Probably for the best as the more it grew, the more steam it lost.

In other words, as always don’t take my ranting too seriously.

Ebert and Roepert, I’m convinced, get paid off by movie companies.  Both of them gave good reviews of “The Happening”.  I read a lot of reviews just now to see what people were saying and how they’re saying it.

First of all, the acting is horrible.  There’s no way around it.  Almost every line is like listening to President Bush give an impromptu speech or press conference.  Cringe-worthy.  John Leguizamo is the only exception, imo.  He’s good.

The premise is good for the most part.  Neurotoxins released from vegetation cause people to kind of go haywire — system crash.  Then they kill themselves however they can.  These are some of the best scenes in the movie.  The creep factor is high.  The scene with the policeman’s gun is chilling.  The movie science — neurotoxins short circuiting our self-preservation biochemistry is believable.  The people actively and assertively killing themselves is not.

Except for the fact that in the news recently researchers observed a wasp to spider mind controlling process.  No joke.

In the forests of Costa Rica, there lurks a sinister variety of wasp, bent on hijacking the minds of hapless spiders for its own ends. Left unmolested, a variety of orb spider known as Plesiometa argyra spends every day of its life carefully reconstructing its perfectly round web, and feasting on the insects unfortunate enough to become snagged upon it. But should one of these spiders fall victim to this as-yet-unnamed species of wasp, the spider is stripped of its free will, and made to spend the last evening of its existence building a protective shelter for the larvae that infect it.

Also, unlike what some review commenters said, it’s not a matter of intelligent plants.  It’s a matter of biological systems reacting to their environment.  Plants and trees have a very rich life that involves communicating via biochemistry and pheromones and what not.  There’s a tree that when attacked by a certain type of beetle (I think) releases a kind of pesticide.  The trees nearby get a whiff and sympathetically (in a clinical sense) also release the same chemical.

Fascinating.  So the premise is good if you keep up with science news blurbs.  If not, it may seem goofy to you.

The moral of the story is an eco message.  Not at all subtle either.  Some of that in the movie is communicated via radio and TV talking heads.  With more bad acting.

Um, let’s see.  The attacks begin in major cities and then starts occurring in smaller towns and then in the country side.  The groups split up into smaller and smaller units until we’re just left with Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and the little girl.  Zooey Deschanel has big eyes and Shyamalan and his cinematographer seem to rely on her eyes instead of dialog, acting or events at times.

Shyamalan’s other movies had chemistry, dialog, quality even if they were less successful and likeable.  This movie was just like “War of the Worlds” but … not.

With the decent premise and moments or creepy atmosphere closing in on you it ends up boiling down to people running from the wind in grassy fields.  Shots of plants and trees.  What?

Just when the movie should be climaxing it kind of comes apart.  That’s when I started looking at my watch and lost control of my posture, slumping in defeat.  In a Stephen King-ish turn they stumble on a house with an old, strange, crazy woman living off the grid.  The pace grinds to a halt, the dialog becomes sparse and for a while practically non-existent.  Just people looking at each other.  Creepy old paranoid unstable woman, creaking doors and floors.  Cheap scares.  But nothing really happens and then the movie’s over.

Did I mention that the acting is atrocious?  Almost intentionally so.

The last scene of the movie, the epilogue, is the same phenomenon beginning in France three months later.  Three months is maybe enough time to clean up the millions of bodies in the northeast.  Did the chemicals take three months to reach France causing those trees and plants to spout neurotoxins?  Or is it just a similar … eh, whatever.

It doesn’t really matter.  Save your money.  Watch an episode of the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits or read a good book instead.

I’m not sure what Shyamalan is going for but I’m just not getting it.  Maybe, as another reviewer said, he needs to direct or produce someone else’s screenplays.

I give this movie one misshapened quadrilateral.

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