Shyamalan 6: The Happening (2008)

or, this was the point at which you decided he was bad?  This?

Me too Marky Mark, me too.

There are two things that American actors are taught.  One is to stammer and stutter every now and then (this is known as ‘naturalism’).  The second is how to give the appearance of eating on screen without actually eating (this is known as ‘an eating disorder’).  It involves three and a half steps:

1) Push your food endlessly around your plate – mashed potatoes or beans are particularly useful for this.

2) Chew for several minutes upon an imagined piece of food in your mouth.  Your infinite mastication will give the appearance of consumption.

2 ½) If eating fast food, feel free to lick your fingers for an almost creepy amount of time.

3) Place a piece of food on your fork.  Just as you are about to place it in your mouth, explode with a particularly juicy line of dialogue.  Your acting ability with cover-up your lack of digestion.

Even the most pedestrian of American television actors are capable of these two tics.  For me, I find them ridiculously distracting.  I also find the fact that no one ever seems to finish their drink in a pub or bar, appalling.  However, this is not the most significant of petty irritations that I find in the movies – that is awarded to the poor planning found in any lesson delivered by a teacher on screen.

Teachers will often feature in the movies.  They’re part of the safe, everyday professions that Hollywood loves so much.  But every teacher will be seen to be halfway through standing in front of a classroom (in itself, frowned upon in many educational institutions) before they are interrupted by the school bell.  Now even the most basic of teaching students knows the importance of timings.  The moment before the bell is the time for the plenary!  (Who am I kidding, no one does a plenary.)

Mark Wahlberg is not a very good teacher in this movie.  He has a pre-rational approach to science, believing that there are things we will never understand.  He has a wilful disobedience towards middle management, which would only foster open disrespect amongst his students.  And he has no appreciation of the curriculum, such is his obsession with discussing bees and whatnot.  I know there is a significant shortage of teachers, but he would need to be on informal targets at the very least.  He also needlessly sets homework knowing it will never be returned, which is something no teacher has ever done ever.

There’s a moment early on the film where Wahlberg is told that the first symptom of the mysterious ailment that afflicts the people in the film is incoherent speech.  That’s 90% of students in some schools…

But it’s actually quite a wonderful film, as if Shyamalan gave up on any pretence of characterisation and explanation, and simply focussed on the unsettling visual horrors he is able to depict so well.  So it almost doesn’t matter that the film is an incoherent mess, with no real ending, because the mass suicides are so appalling horrifying.  Can’t understand why he insists on the most tedious of opening credit sequences though.  It’s 2008, not 1958 Night!


 Shyamalan rankings:


  1. The Village
  2. The Sixth Sense
  3. The Happening
  4. Lady in the Water
  5. Signs
  6. Unbreakable

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