Posted by: Dr P | March 2, 2008

The Happening

Technology is a git. We actually went to see this film on Tuesday and shortly thereafter my PC died. I suspect this was one of those “oooooh spooky” moments that M Night Shyamalan, director of the movie in question, used to be so good at. Well, frankly, he’s pants at it now. But anyway, my PC is temporarily working so I’ll chug through this review.

Big G and I have a new game – summarise the complete works of the director in one or two sentences. In the case of Mr Shyamalan, it’s … Bruce Willis spots signs of monsters lurking in his pool, becomes unbreakable and wanderers around ghostlike, until his nemesis appears, whispering about dead people trapped in a village that time forgot.

G and I nudged each other as we spotted the posters for Hellboy 2. It’s going to be a cool summer of movies.

This is a movie about trees and plant-life suddenly deciding to raise up against the American North East and wipe out humans by removing the “self harm prevention reflex” or something. The film opens with people wandering round Central Park and suddenly stopping and killing themselves in all manner of inventive ways, whether it’s guns, stabbings, throwing themselves under mechanical equipment, off building site scaffolding, or simply listening to indie mixtapes. It’s that bad.

The first sign that trouble is looming is when the afflicted people just suddenly stop and stare blankly into space. Then they start falling over and dying. In many ways, it’s like being at a Bury FC match. But maybe not quite as agonising.

The central character in the movie is Marky Mark Wahlberg, who last graced the pages of these reviews in the wonderful “We Own the Night”. He still looks like he should be modelling clothes – only now it’s knitwear and sweaters rather than mens’ briefs. He plays a teacher caught up in the catastrophe. His wife is having a spot of marital woe and confesses to our hero that she’s been out and enjoyed dessert with another man. No, she actually means dessert. Really, she’s that much of a wet blanket. I initially put “Really, she’s that wet”, but you’d get the wrong end of it. Unlike her, who didn’t get any end.

OK, let’s focus on the central theme of this frankly appalling movie. Plant life kills people. This ain’t the Triffids or war of the Worlds, either. There’s no eerie red vegetation or giant plants stalking about. Nope, in this movie, the populace gets wiped out by wind rustling through the undergrowth. I think we’ve all experienced a bit of that from time to time. I know I have. Once Knitwear Boy realises that herbaceous borders are his enemy, he gets his family together and seeks the countryside. The countryside! What a tit.

Meanwhile, scientists and experts everywhere proclaim that “in these sorts of cases, the peak death toll will happen after 24 hours”. What the hell do they mean “in these sorts of cases”?!?!?!?! Just how often do plants rise up and rebel against humankind!? So basically, Marky has to survive until about 9.30 the next morning (although he doesn’t know this, not being an expert on anything other than talking in a monotone and wearing pringle – this truly is his worst film performance to date).

I had intended to pad out this review with all manner of tree and plant jokes, but I’m afraid you poor saps will have to do without that. I’m going to branch off into new areas, get to the root of the story and talk about a few things I twigged along the way. I haven’t got time for j-oaks! It’s a thorny problem. Anyway, they’re birch-ually redundant here – this film was so awful it was actually enjoyable. Plus almost everyone dies, even a whole load of cops(e).

One of the joys of M Night films is looking out for, and trying to anticipate, the inevitable twist. In the Sixth Sense, the big twist was of course that Hayley Joel Osment could see his dead movie career, while in the Village there were any number of “oooh” moments. Well, you keep waiting and waiting here – and there isn’t one. Maybe that is the twist, there’s no twist. There is one really good part of about 10 minutes where our ragtag band of survivors comes across a cottage in the middle of nowhere where a frankly spooky woman lives. But then it turns out she’s just barking(!) mad and ends up getting killed just like the rest. If it had been her controlling the plants it could have been great, but she isn’t, and it isn’t.

In the end, 9.30 arrives and we see if the main characters have made it through to the end. And that’s it. Complete pile of p(l)ants.

Film quality – Tree out of ten
Acting – Wooden
Big twist? – Leaf it out
Guest stars – Edward Woodward, Rosemary Clooney, Basil Brush, Heather Mills McCartney, Fern Britten and Leslie Ash
Chance of a sequel? – Knot likely
Pun potential – Tree-mendous
Overall – just not Happening

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