So, last week I watched not one but two truly bad movies on dvd, each of which was bad in its own distinctive way.
The first was M. Night Shyamalan's THE HAPPENING, which I'd wanted to see in theatres but missed. I'd been intrigued to learn it was inspired by Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon that's been wiping out the bees, and thought Shyamalan wd be able to make a pretty interesting story out of that. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
The short version: this is a thirty-minute episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, sans Rod Serling's genius, stretched out to ninety-one minutes (but it seems longer).
The slightly longer version: this is Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, sans Hitchcock's genius, except with trees rather than birds.
It's an interesting premise -- one day trees in Central Park start to release a biotoxin (think phemerones) which causes everyone who inhales them to immediately commit suicide. In short, it's the story of a suicide plague that starts in NYC, then spreads to Philadelphia and other large east-coast cities, then to towns, then villages, then small groups of refugees, then single people. People initially assume it's some sort of terrorist attack using nerve gas and only gradually begin to figure out the truth.
That cd be an interesting film, but unfortunately it suffers from some massive logical gaps. Why is the tree's defense mechanism first triggered in a peaceful spot like Central Park rather than, say, a Weyerhaeuser tree farm being chainsawed and clearcut in the Pacific Northwest? Why does everybody affected by the plague instantly realize the most effective way to kill themselves and immediately carry it out flawlessly? Shyamalan does make v. effective use of Zooey Deschanel ability to look unearthly when standing silently and staring, but it'd have been better yet to have likable lead characters in a compelling plot; the main story here feels more like an afterthought, a frame that wanders around to enclose the twenty or so little snuff films that are the focus of Shyamalan's real interest.
And, I just have to say, that the last time I saw a bad movie named "The Happening" (about forty years ago) at least it had a great theme song by The Supremes. Not the case here.
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inside Edmund Wilson
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