So, last week I watched not one but two truly bad movies on dvd, each of which was bad in its own distinctive way.
The first was M. Night Shyamalan's THE HAPPENING, which I'd wanted to see in theatres but missed. I'd been intrigued to learn it was inspired by Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon that's been wiping out the bees, and thought Shyamalan wd be able to make a pretty interesting story out of that. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
The short version: this is a thirty-minute episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, sans Rod Serling's genius, stretched out to ninety-one minutes (but it seems longer).
The slightly longer version: this is Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, sans Hitchcock's genius, except with trees rather than birds.
It's an interesting premise -- one day trees in Central Park start to release a biotoxin (think phemerones) which causes everyone who inhales them to immediately commit suicide. In short, it's the story of a suicide plague that starts in NYC, then spreads to Philadelphia and other large east-coast cities, then to towns, then villages, then small groups of refugees, then single people. People initially assume it's some sort of terrorist attack using nerve gas and only gradually begin to figure out the truth.
That cd be an interesting film, but unfortunately it suffers from some massive logical gaps. Why is the tree's defense mechanism first triggered in a peaceful spot like Central Park rather than, say, a Weyerhaeuser tree farm being chainsawed and clearcut in the Pacific Northwest? Why does everybody affected by the plague instantly realize the most effective way to kill themselves and immediately carry it out flawlessly? Shyamalan does make v. effective use of Zooey Deschanel ability to look unearthly when standing silently and staring, but it'd have been better yet to have likable lead characters in a compelling plot; the main story here feels more like an afterthought, a frame that wanders around to enclose the twenty or so little snuff films that are the focus of Shyamalan's real interest.
And, I just have to say, that the last time I saw a bad movie named "The Happening" (about forty years ago) at least it had a great theme song by The Supremes. Not the case here.
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5 hours ago
While I don't think it was Shyamalan's best film, I did like it quite a bit more than you did. In response to a couple of your plot questions, I'd offer these possible answers (CONTAINS FURTHER SPOILERS):
Why is the tree's defense mechanism first triggered in a peaceful spot like Central Park rather than, say, a Weyerhaeuser tree farm being chainsawed and clearcut in the Pacific Northwest?
Because the trees are stimulated to release the biotoxin by the density of people around them. As you pointed out, over the course of the film, the trees become more sensitized and release the toxin in response to smaller and smaller clusters of people. But initially, it takes a very high human (as well as tree) population density to trigger the event. The relatively small number of people in the pacific northwest (as compared to that of the major cities of the northeast) wouldn't be sufficient.
Also, remember that at the end of the film, there is an intimation that this was only the first such happening likely to occur (unless man changes his ways, yadda yadda yadda). So it didn't bother me that the events were confined to the northeast in this case. In the final scene, it seems to be starting up again in Paris. It can only be a matter of time before it comes to Oregon. :)
Why does everybody affected by the plague instantly realize the most effective way to kill themselves and immediately carry it out flawlessly?
Not instantly, not necessarily the most effective, and not flawlessly. First, I'd point out that it's not like the biotoxin takes over or possesses their whole minds, inhibiting all other action, knowledge, or awareness; it only puts an irresistible compulsion into them. They can still think. They still know how to do things, e.g., walk, manipulate objects, even drive a car or start up a mower — so it makes sense they'd be able to think of a method to kill themselves.
And remember John Leguizamo's character? The group in the jeep drives at full speed into a tree, but this doesn't kill everybody. Leguizamo then has to find an alternative suicide method. He picks up a piece of glass from the car crash and starts sawing into his wrist. Not necessarily as efficient or flawless as cutting his own throat, is it? And I have to think there are probably people who knocked themselves senseless, survived falls from the tops of buildings, and what not, only to wake up later, after the toxin had dispersed and be okay again.
I think you're being a bit too hard on Shyamalan here. In fact, I think most everybody since The Sixth Sense has been a little too hard on him.
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