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3 ˝ + Stars: Deals with the Unexplained and the Unknown...(may contain mild spoilers)
, June 16, 2008
Act of God- A direct and sudden event or action of certain unexplainable forces that could not be reasonably foreseen; it compromises all evidence and defies all attempts at explanation by Science.
THE HAPPENING is writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's latest outing after his somewhat disappointing "Lady in the Water". This director's films are lyrical in tone but often has a darkness in their proceedings; Shyamalan`s films are also thematic in their execution and "The Happening" is no different. Pronounced as his first "R-Rated" film, this latest offering is as imaginative as "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs". His films are a "hit" or a "miss", I'm not a solid fan but his films are certainly original. Certain viewers will probably feel a bit alienated because of its main premise, but no one can deny that the film does explore humanity`s greatest threat: the unknown and the unexplainable.
One morning, in a major city in the U.S., everyone seems to be minding their own business, doing their chores, working their shifts, until suddenly, a barrage of unexplainable suicides happen one after the other. Citizens commit violence against themselves and the only explanation the media can offer is a terrorist attack or a deadly toxin released by either terrorists and then plants. Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) is a science teacher who bases most things on deductive reasoning and logical explanations; has to flee the city for the countryside with his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel) together with a small group of survivors to try to escape the invisible threat. However, what they come across with may defy all semblances of logical human explanation.
Shyamalan may have summoned the bleakest array of disturbing images in the film's beginning. The nightmare and mayhem by eventual suicides are thoroughly visible; hairpins are driven to jugulars, construction workers jumping off buildings, cops shooting themselves, people crawling under their own lawnmowers, zoo keepers offering themselves as a the main course to lions. The director offers a lot of truly bleak hysteria and will definitely make your skin crawl. The images are full of intense sequences of mass suicide especially in the first act, which is worthy of the price of a movie ticket by itself. It is dark, moody and bleak that will definitely leave some viewers very affected as it dishes out all the lurid details.
The film emulates a very strong feeling of the unknown and further accentuated by the confused media broadcasts which attempt to explain the phenomena. Elliot has his own theories as well as a kindly farmer which he has crossed paths with. There is also a feeling of helplessness as our cast finds themselves fleeing from one path to another, avoiding heavily populated places with large amounts of deaths. Human panic and fear is also explored with a very bleak execution. Some may say that Shyamalan missed some opportunities as the film seems like a rethread of his film, "Signs", with a family caught in all the chaos. While this may be so in a way, I do think that "The Happening" is a lot more intense with its premise and its ability to unnerve is more omnipresent.
Elliot offers some theories of the `event' as Wahlberg makes his best expressions of being puzzled, flabbergasted and confused. This man has been on a roll lately, I liked him in "Shooter" and "The Departed"; Markie-mark pulls off a very decent performance. His supporting cast isn't so bad either. The dialogue still has the usual "quippy" remarks as is reminiscent in Shyamalan's "Signs" that are also an acceptable practice to tone down its bleakness somehow and to express different personalities in a certain situation. I liked the nice touches by the director as he shows the blowing wind as a harbinger of doom, as if a mighty hand envelopes the surroundings with an irresistible force. The only fault the film may have is that it seemed to run a little out of gas near the final act, as he somehow exhausts his ideas. Don't get me wrong, it's just that it may be near-impossible to keep up such a powerful start.
It's impossible for me to say anything more without spoiling the film, the film is a cannon of a horror film in its first act. Complemented with a very bleak tone that stays within a lyrical execution and a good soundtrack, with Wahlberg's confused looks, "The Happening" is a satisfying diversion. Its main theme of the unknown promises a change of pace and some viewers may argue that it still followed the same formulas. The film may be somewhat hampered with familiar rethreads of a chase film but it`s overshadowed by what its trying to say. If you're familiar with this director's films; you'll know that he has certain motifs and themes, it's not so much with dealing with answers but asking the answers.
The film's climax may disappoint some viewers as the film never does offer any solid answers; which is the whole point. I can just hear them now; so what was the cause? I thought it was quite good for Shyamalan to encourage these questions, but those who like being spoon-fed the details should just stay away. After all, how do you explain an "ACT OF GOD"?
Recommended! [3 ˝ + Stars]
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