Film: The Happening
Banner: UTV Motion Pictures
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Star – Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel
We are struggling around with the environment too much and so now we pay with our blood. Straight, simple and clear is the message of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror flick The Happening.
North-East America (yes, it’s the US again, disaster’s favourite child) has been besieged by a toxin, which attacks neuro-transmitters in the human brain leading to humans losing their sense of self-preservation and heading straight for a kill. That is themselves.
Beginning with New York, a horrendous wave of suicides sweeps up and keeps spreading while the hero and his wife (as usual again) try to evade it with select scientific theories and their sense of self-preservation still intact until in the end it catches up with them. What it does to them, what it leads the scientists to believe and what the epilogue wants us to believe, form the crux of the story, which largely points to the opening line of this piece — that we are seriously playing with the environment and to our own peril.
But science in the film is not really sure about the facts. It assumes. And so we are taken through two hours of gory deaths and life-and-death chase sequence with that assumption and what’s worse, are left with it at the end of the film. So the conclusion could be anything – Was it that love conquers all? Or that nature is too far superior to be ever fully explained by science? Or that the writers ran out of steam while trying to match the brilliance of the horror with an equally brilliant (and plausible) end, hence they did away with the end itself?
The film is a distinct Shyamalan offering with all its ingredients of new-age mystic science with talks of scientifically proven energy of human moods and emotions and plants talking to each other etc. But The Happening looks like it tries hard to fit the concepts in with the flow of the narrative and the dishing out of plausible theories. It does not do more than create a set-up and a weak one at that.
Since the film is ridden with disaster-horror-flick clichés, it makes no impact whatsoever in spine chilling except with the horror of the premise itself. The ‘happening’ maybe a little far-fetched but its effects on humans, the sudden motion-less-ness, robotic suicides and the rate of the viral toxin catching up, all add to an engaged viewing. But one that has its finale in a field thrown open.
Sadly, it does not provide enough fodder to take home to chew. Not because it is not conclusive but because it is ridden with assumptions. Assumptions that lead one nowhere and reduce The Happening to a fare of serial fast-food shocks of horror and gore, with lots of theories and nothing in between.
The pre-occupation with the supernatural takes a down-turn here with a distinct attempt to rationalize the events. But surprisingly, there are no layers indicating neo-scientific phenomenon or even border-line mysticism. This limits the ‘experience’ of the viewer to the shocks of the deaths and race between life and the toxin, which in itself is nothing much.
And it’s not the facts of science you are left fighting with at the end of it. It is the distinct feeling of dejection at being cheated of a catharsis. An opportunity to let out all that air the film makes you hold throughout within you. Surely, that’s the least a film can do… especially Shyamalan’s.