Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Happening: mysterious moviegoing madness

Something is "Happening."

Massive spoilers below about the newest M. Night film. But, if you don't feel like having the movie spoiled, know at least this... it's really, really pointless.

People from all over the country are walking slowly, in lines. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends and family. They converse with a mysterious stranger behind a pane of glass.  They are told to proceed down a dimly lit hallway. They are given a number. When they reach the door with that number, they enter. They sit in darkness, listening to strange voices that exhort them to do things. Various things. You know... things. The darkness gets darker.

The people sit and watch glowing lights. They watch shadows, both bright and dim. They listen to sounds.

They watch yet another interminably "creepy" film by M. Night Shyamalan. They watch it even though his last four films were nowhere near as good as his first. And the last couple were actually quite bad. They watch despite what they have heard or read or seen.

The main point of M. Night's newest film seems to be that, "Sometimes shit happens and there's no understanding it."

This would be the only way to explain why we (including me) went to this film.

To say it was a bad movie would imply that there is some kind of "it" to which we can apply the adjective "bad." There is no "it." A bunch of stuff happens. We never find out why. We are left to make some guesses based on the characters' guesses. But, because it is a "horror" movie, at the end, M. Night hauls out the hoary old cliche of... "it's happening... again!" You know... The alien dies, but then you recognize, in the closing sequence, that it managed to lay an egg. The killer drowns, but then his hand comes popping out of the lake at the last moment.

For a movie that's so big on being "mysterious," slapping us in the face with that oldest of genre bromides is, well... it's just tiring.

If M. is trying to use this whole thing as a giant alternate-reality-game kinda thing, where we shuffle, mindlessly, to see his films despite the recent awful track record... if he means this to be a giant metaphor for the hive mind -- our seeing his films even when we know they'll be bad -- well, then he wins.

In the film, we never understand why the bad stuff is "happening." In real life, we never understand why "this [going to see M.'s movies] is happening."

The movie only succeeds, therefore, as a metaphor for its own meaninglessness. Which would have made a B+ sophomore experimental theater piece. But not a big-budget film.

Bleh. Stop giving M. money until he writes a screenplay that doesn't totally suck.

But... I suppose...

that's part of...



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