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M. Night Shyamalan

This summer, I decided I would give M. Night Shyamalan yet another chance, so I went to The Happening.  I really, really wanted to like this movie.  I wanted him to prove everyone wrong, that he wasn’t just a one-trick pony, that he could make another good horror/thriller after The Sixth Sense.

Let me just say, The Sixth Sense was a wonderful little gem of a movie, and even though the whole “I see dead people? thing is so played-out it’s annoying, if you go back and watch the movie, it really is great.  Plus Haley Joel Osment is so cute and such a great actor.  Just like Haley Joel’s career, Shyamalan’s talent has gone downhill since then.  After the Sixth Sense, everyone was talking about M. Night, wondering what he was going to do next, he was the great discovery of that year, the next Hitchcock some said.

Then he made Unbreakable.  Now, I know some die-hard Unbreakable fans, and I know I’ve seen this film before, but I honestly could not tell you anything about it.  It was so forgettable that all I remember is Samuel L. Jackson not swearing.  And Bruce Willis is so bland that I don’t even remember what his purpose in the movie was.

That was just a minor hitch though, in the eyes of the public, because I don’t even remember that one having a wide release or anything like that.  I forgave him because I knew from his first endeavor that he could do better.  When I heard about Signs, I was excited beyond excited.  Aliens? Good. M. Night? Good.  Joaquin Phoenix? Hot.  It all came together and sounded like a great movie.  And, say what you will, the first three-fourths was excellent.  He built up a great tension and suspense that really scared me at least.  And then he had to ruin everything by showing that stupid alien full-on and having everything tie together somehow in an implausible twist-ending that left a bad taste in the audience’s mouths.  The whole reason the first part of the movie worked was because everything was unseen, the aliens could be whatever you wanted them to be.  There could be a threat or no threat at all.  And then the fool had to upset the delicate balance of fear and humanity by showing the stupidest-looking alien since E.T.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love E.T. but damn that thing is hideous.)  I still maintain that if he had left the aliens out or maybe put them into the shadows instead of full sunlight, it would have been a much better movie.  However, that being said, I still can’t account for the whole “the aliens can’t stand water!? thing.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the arguments before, so I’ll just briefly list them here: every living being is made up of water, there’s water in the atmosphere, if they’ve been sending scouts for days or weeks or months, you’d think they’d know that the whole damn planet is covered in water. 

And the wife dying in the car accident was stupid too.

I still bought Signs on DVD, I admit it, and I was still excited for The Village.  Until I saw it.  The atmosphere was good, colors, costumes, etc.  The story was ridiculous and the monsters were not real which made me angry, and the ending was an abomination of unholy forces.  I feel very strongly about this, because this movie could have been great.  That’s the thing about M. Night Shyamalan.  He has so much potential that he never lives up to.  Maybe I just expect more of him, but he always seems to prove me wrong with his increasingly terrible films.  He seems to be stuck in this feeling that all we want from him is thrillers with insane twists at the end.  Yeah, that’s what we wanted in the Sixth Sense, but dear God, man, think of something else now.  Well, he kind of did, but…

I refuse to write anything about Lady in the Water because it was such a turd that I can’t even pain myself to remember anything about it.  Worst movie I ever saw for free.  Terrible beyond belief would accurately describe it, I think.

So now I finally come to the Happening.  First impressions:  terrible title, but we’re treading on familiar ground, family traveling cross-country to escape some weird suicide-causing airborne plant disease or something like that.  It’s been done.  The only really inspired scenes were the two bookends, the first scene with everyone in Central Park walking backwards and killing themselves and then the end scene in Paris with “mon vélo? and those crazy Parisians killing themselves.  But then I stop to think and I realize, what ridiculous ways these crazies think of to kill themselves.  Hair-chopstick-thing to the throat?  Lawnmower over the head?  The only credit I give the director is that every time a horrible suicide was about to happen, I would think they won’t show it, it’s too gross, it’s disgusting, oh don’t show that, he won’t do it he won’t he won’t oh God he did it that’s nasty!  So the R rating really helped, although most of the deaths were predictable yet still over-the-top.  I’ll only point out a few more criticisms because this post has gone on far too long and these things have been said before.  But come on, the enemy is air?  How do you outrun the wind?  How do the main characters figure out the cause and no one else does?  A small whole in a jeep lets the virus/whatever in?  Why is Mark Wahlberg so terrible in this movie?  He was great in The Departed.  And why does that wide-eyed zombie of a main actress piss me off so much?  I think the only blessing with this movie is that M. Night only had a voice cameo.  Thank God, because that guy can’t act.

Although I’ve just criticized the man’s life work, I know I’ll be in line for his next thriller too, just to see if he might prove me wrong this time.  And I hope he does.


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