The Happening

The Happening

Essentially a modern day reworking of the vaguely scientific, paranoia-ridden B-Movies of old, transporting post-9/11 fears (terrorism, technology and disconnection) into an entirely new cinematic context. Here, nature can no longer be trusted, the outside world turning inwards on the very people who seem to be corrupting it, a fear which constantly surrounds our characters, yet one which is never given the chance to become anything more than metaphysical (I find it odd that people constantly complain about horror films making their 'terror' a physical presence, yet proceed to mock the one film which truly understands this).
All throughout Shyamalan commits to a very specific tone, and although at times the performances don't seem entirely in line with what he's envisioned (it feels like our two lead actors understand the material the least), for much of the film's 90 minute run-time it manages to alternate between reflexive satire (much of the problems people have with the dialogue seem to stem from an inability to understand that the unreality of it is intentional), flat-out comedy and dread-inducing horror. The aforementioned horror of The Happening is born out of Shyamalan's complete lack of cinematic affectation, each frame carefully composed, but patient in the way it works to reveal its information to us. He punctuates the film's broader moments with effectively utilised genre cliches (dutch tilts, extreme close-ups), but is mostly interested in the ways he can transform a static shot of wind and greenery into something subtly terrifying.
It's certainly not perfect, but I'm truly baffled by its reputation. A B-Movie for the 21st century.

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