The depressing thing about seeing a ton of movies, is that one begins to realize how few movies there actually are. Not only are there numerous remakes and sequels, but we also have an abundance of movies that are, more or less, pre-existing films with a minor alteration. Disturbia is just a Millennial generation Rear Window. Speed is your “Die Hard on a bus”, Speed 2 is Speed on a boat, and Speed 3 is cleverly title The Lake House.
Recently, I reviewed a DVD called Asylum for The DVD Lounge. It was an inferior version of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That’s when it hit me (for the 1,000 time) that the only thing worse than being a simulacrum is being a remarkably crappy simulacrum.
Okay, so there are worse things than being a crappy simulacrum. Drowning, perhaps. . . But I digress.
Anywho the wife and I went to see new Hulk, and new Shyamalan last week. It was on our way out of the theater that my wife pointed out to me that The Happening is just a shitty remake of The Birds.
But apart from being a shitty remake of The Birds, The Happening is yet another version of that same film M. Night Shyamalan usually makes, each one making a little less sense than its predecessor.
Oh, by the way, I will offer a SPOILER ALERT here. I will give away plot points to The Happening. These are not true spoilers however, as the movie was never fresh and tasty to begin with. It’s like going to the produce mart and stocking up on black bananas when you plan on doing no baking.
Maybe it is nothing like that thing.
Anyroad, directed by Elliot Silverstein, The Happening tells the story of a bunch of counter-culture hippies who manage to kidnap a retired mafia don . . . Wait. . . wrong one. . .
The Happening (2008) features Marky Mark and a clunky bunch (of bad writing). Mr. Mark plays Elliot Moore, our neurotically meek and sexless protagonist. He’s got all the edge of the insipid good guy version of John Cena, minus all the testosterone, visiting some dying make-a-wish kids, while their parents vigilantly watch in order to make sure that he doesn’t start Benoit-ing the lot of them.
Actually, he’s more like every other timid, asexual, Caucasian male in every other M. Night Shyamalan movie, who has been dropped into a set of poorly conceived paranormal events. M. Night has made it abundantly clear that he is only able to come up with about 4 different characters. Our Milquetoast hero, his distant or dead wife, bland child who acts like a tiny adult, and 1-dimensional-(wo)man.
Elliot is a high school science teacher, who makes it abundantly clear that M. Night knows less about science than I know about
pleasing a woman sexually spot-welding. Elliot and all the scientists featured in The Happening use the word “theory” when they more rightly mean “hypothesis” or even “baseless guess”. They also resign themselves to the fact that there exists a broad category of things which “Nature does and we can never fully understand.” The bad science isn’t limited to these things, but that’s enough for now.
As it turns out, there is some sort of toxin going around the Northeast. It starts in the big cities and moves its way to smaller populations. This toxin makes you walk backwards for a few steps, repeat the word “Calculus” and then compels you to commit suicide. It’s supposed to “reverse our self-preservation instinct” or some such jive. In the course of the film, this toxin causes people to stand in front of traffic, shoot themselves, lay under lawn mowers, get their forearms pulled off by large cats, grab ladders and garden hoses and assemble makeshift gallows, or simply stab their own necks with knitting needles. I guess some people are more clever about their suicides than others.
Sure, this thing sounds far-fetched, but I believe that a minor version of this toxin already exists. It has affected a number of people here in Chicago, completely eliminating their self-preservation instinct with regards to crossing the street in front of my car.
Dumbass, you are not Shaft! Look both way EmEffer!
Where was I?
So, Marky Mark gets his wife Zooey Deschanel, and they take a train out of the city with math teacher buddy John Leguizamo, and the math teacher’s young daughter. Math teacher’s wife is supposed to catch up with them later.
It’s also worth noting that Elliot the Science Teacher and his wife are going through some marital drama because the wife is hiding the fact that she had ice cream with another man.
THE FILTHY WHORE!
The engineers lose contact with their company, so they decide to stop the train in the middle of nowhere (A.K.A. anywhere in Pennsylvania between Philly and Pittsburgh). John Leguizamo loses contact with his wife, so he decides to go to New Jersey to find her, leaving his kid with Marky Mark.
Personally, I would be hesitant to go to Jersey, with or without any evil suicide toxins permeating about. Also, my wife has told me that I am not allowed to leave my daughter in the care of Marky Mark.
Maybe Zooey Deschanel, but never Marky Mark.
Since John Leguizamo is not officially white, is separated from our main character, and this thing is allegedly a horror movie, you can guess how long he stays alive.
Around this time, we get Marky Mark and his funky hunch! Plants are spreading this toxin! Apparently, all plants can talk to each other, all of them can rapidly evolve highly specialized death spores, and they can all give a fairly accurate estimate of population density. You see, Funky Hunch part 2 is that the plants start by killing large clumps of people and work their way down to smaller and smaller groups.
If you’re going to pitch such recockulous notions to me in a movie, can you at least put the Swamp Thing in it? Honestly, this is a job for the Swamp Thing.
We know that Marky Mark is right in his guess because we are treated to numerous shots of plants swaying in the wind OMINOUSLY!
Eventually teacher, wife and other teacher’s kid pick up two other kids, who are subsequently, unceremoniously killed off (and only one of them was black!). No one ever bothers to protect John Leguizamo’s kid from this graphic violence. Shield her eyes, you worthless hunk of Marky Mark!
After that, teacher, wife and OTK spend the night with an old lady-hermit-farmer who introduces them to the third act plot devices.
Finally, teacher and wife expose themselves and the innocent child (whom they are rubbish at protecting) to the suicide toxin in order to group hug. Luckily for them, the toxin disappeared a couple of minutes earlier. As such, we are treated to superfluous future shots of teacher and wife raising the little Latina as their own. And then another superfluous shot of a positive pregnancy test for the wife.
But, uh-oh, the whole thing is Happening all over again, this time in Europe!
All in all, we have bad dialogue, characters who vary between being broadly drawn and being poorly drawn, terrible dialogue, lousy acting by a bunch of folk who can do much better, horrendous dialogue, and a world-wide cabal of tree conspirators.
The three tools of scary stories (according to Stephen King) are gore, horror, and terror. The gore is mostly off screen, and generally laughable when on screen. There is nothing particularly horrifying about zombies who kill themselves. We are never given a good reason to care about these characters, so we can’t share in their terror that there might be, I dunno, windblown grass outside. The movie is made almost entirely of fail. It’s 70 percent fail, about 25 percent ass, and 5 percent voted for Ralph Nader.
It sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks a pork chop through a straw. If you had those clear plastic storage bags full of comforters from the infomercial, you could use The Happening instead of a Shop Vac to suck all those blankets down small enough to fit into that tiny storage space. Hell, The Happening could probably suck them small enough to fit inside one of them red cups for playing Yahtzee.
If you want to see a movie wherein a makeshift family fights off nature inexplicably run amok, rent The Birds. If you want to read a story about plants around the world trying to kill off humanity, I recommend picking up one of Alan Moore’s early issues of Swamp Thing, which are handily collected in the TPB Saga of the Swamp Thing.
The only way to enjoy The Happening is through constant mocking, and at least 2 robot-puppet sidekicks.
And I was told that it is rude to bring puppets into movie theaters.