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It’s the trees, stupid

June 14, 2008

Two things I love: apocalyptic movies and Zooey Deschanel, so hells yes I went to see The Happening on opening day. Little did I know, or could even dare to hope, that M. Night Sham’s new one is a wind-in-the-trees movie par excellence. Nearly every other shot of the film is a shot of rustling trees, a ratio that Jean-Marie Straub would be hard-pressed to keep up with. And, even better, mid-way through the film there’s a complete steal from the greatest wind-in-the-trees shot of all time: from Tarkovsky’s Mirror (talking of which, the trailer right before the film was a Kiefer Sutherland movie called Mirrors, which I’m hoping is to Mirror what Aliens was to Alien).

Beyond trees and wind, The Happening is an entertaining enough little B movie that, were it signed by John Carpenter or George Romero, we’d be cutting a lot more slack, which is not to say that it’s any good. Marky Mark’s salary aside, it looks like it cost a few hundred thousand dollars to make, and on top of that it feels like it was made up as it went along. The premise is ludicrous and gets ludicrouser minute-by-minute (of which there are only 91), the acting stupendously bad (Wahlberg and John Leguizamo are two of the most unlikely high school teachers you’ll ever see, and the back-story of Wahlberg and Zooey’s relationship is awfully labored) and M. Sham makes some really odd choices in the simplest of set-ups. But, that said, and until it peters out at the end, I had a blast watching it. It’s no Philip Kaufman Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though it does its damnedest to rip that off, but it makes for an OK episode of The Twilight Zone, and an amusing companion piece to this happening.

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