Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lessons from zombies

While the premise (or perhaps the brief sentence used to pitch the film) of "M Night Shaymalan's The Happening" sounds intriguing, dare-I-say even chilling, the director (M Night Shaymalan) finds few ways of wringing any drama from it past the 25 minute mark. Although, in his defense, the genre of "greenhouse horror" is a young one, whose formulas is not yet well-established. Still, he could have done well by examining a more well-tread model for inspiration. I submit: the zombie epidemic.
Fleeing the slow shuffling undead (and even the occasional super-charged "running" zombie) gets boring to watch pretty quick. So, every zombie film I have ever seen contains a plot device in which one of the central good-guy type characters at some point receives a messy chomp to the arm, then a few scenes later they have dark grease-paint under their eyes and glycerin sweat on their forehead, and someone says (ludicrously) "Hey, are you sure you're feeling alright?" It presents an interesting dilemma: Can this person be saved? Is it worth the trouble? What should be used to decapitate them and how soon can you do it?
The predicament doesn't perfectly translate to (M Night) Shaymalan's film, but it does hold a certain amount of potential. What if someone in your group got a whiff of that tree gas? Could you stop them if they were truly hell-bent on offing themselves (albeit in a trance-like state)? What would you do? Scour the area for potentially dangerous objects ("Oh my god, Billie's beating himself with a whiffle ball!)? Mummify the afflicted with bubble wrap? Just how long before the lemming-minded just started gnawing lead paint off the side of the house? Sounds like a great second act to me. Normally I would instruct a director to steer away from hoary cliches, but man, anything would have improved this turd.

1 comment:

StacyMac said...

Oh but you are wrong about the greenhouse terror genre- check out "Night of the Triffids"- or maybe triffits- whatever its about some crazy ass plants that kill. PLANTS THAT KILL!