Saturday, July 19, 2008
I have a theory regarding suspense thriller films. It states that the level of their quality is directly proportional to how easily the exact same film could not have been conceived, staged, and executed by nine-year-olds with a borrowed camcorder. "North by Northwest" for instance, features adult themes of lust and paranoia, an artful chase scene involving an airplane, and a finale precariously staged on Mt. Rushmore. I can think of only a few third-graders capable of pulling that off. Lets see how "M Night Shaymalan's the Happening" stacks up based on these standards: the film is set against the dramatic backdrop of... a grassy field in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, its action consists nearly entirely of... characters desperately trying to evade the wind, and it builds tension throughout with many, many ominous shots of... trees gently swaying in the breeze. Result: NOT SO GOOD. It's actually not too much of a stretch to imagine the film, stripped of its musical score and classy filmstock, as being concocted by a group of precocious tikes, budding auteurs inspired by a recent earth-day class to create a grand youtube opus. Even the film's most R-rated scene, involving some rube in a lion cage, could have been just as easily enacted with a lethargic great dane and a little ketchup. Shaymalan's defense of "Lady in the Water" was that it was based on a bedtime story he told his children ("C'mon, I was really tired that night!"), Is it possible he went one step further with "happening" and actually stole one his kids' movie ideas? If so, even they can never be forgiven.