Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Happening

Someone needs to tell M. Night Shyamalan to cheer the hell up.

He of the inexplicably bizarre plotline and signature Killer TwistTM seems to be drowning lately in a sea of his own moroseness (morosity?).

I know Night's plotlines lend themselves to a dark mode of presentation, but criminy . . . after sitting through The Happening for a (mercifully brief) 91 minutes I felt like cutting my fringe on the diagonal and listening to A Perfect Circle.

It's not just that The Happening is dour event after dour event, watched grimly by a group of dour protagonists. No. Everything about this film just screams downer. The plot, the script, the understated acting, the wandering direction and even the washed-out colour scheme all seem designed solely to bring down the mood.

The one moment of levity (which I don't need to point out . . . you'll see it) stands out so much it seems to have been tacked on as an afterthought.

Now I'm all for depressing cinema . . . Requiem for a Dream is one of my all-time favourites . . . but there's got to be an interesting story arc to support it. Here the presentation is all too muddled to even give you a decent and tangible emotional slump. All you're left with is a slightly unsettled feeling and a vague sense of angst.

Admittedly Night's made a rod for his own back with the subject matter. It's a decent enough idea, but would have taken a filmmaker far more accomplished than him to pull it off.

It doesn't help that the resolution is unsatisfying, the cast seems lost in the plot and the script was cranked out of George Lucas's patented Awkward-Dialogue-O-Matic.

If you're going to saddle your story with an invisible enemy and a hopeless mission, then you really need some great characters and characterisations to carry the film. And The Happening just doesn't have them.

On the upside there are good set-pieces, a few very suspenseful moments, some nice cinematography and a superb score by James Newton Howard.

But after a promising start it soon wanders off into a depressing nowhereland.

2 out of 5