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Last Year In Film/Great Scenes From Shit Films Part 9: The Happening by Jamie

The Happening is a stupid, stupid movie. I don’t think anyone can deny that. In fact, it may just be the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen Snakes on a Plane and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. It plumbs the depths of dumb in ways that few films have ever done before and for that, M. Night Shyamalan deserves some credit. A few days before reviews for the film were posted online, M. Night said that The Happening was intended to be a B-Movie and I can’t help but call bullshit. If it was, why did he wait so long before revealing this fact? Why wasn’t it mentioned in any of the films advertising? Can you imagine if Grindhouse had been released under a different name without any attention being drawn to the fact that they were Grindhouse films? People would be annoyed and rightfully so… Though with the two films released under the Groundhouse title it is painfully clear what is going on even without any reference to it so maybe that’s a bad example. Sorry. Anyway, it’s pretty clear that Shyamalan intended for this film to be something more than a B-Movie and, when he got wind of the reaction to it, he decided to try and bluff everyone. Well, it didn’t work.

Once more, spoilers ahead. The Happening tells the stupid, stupid story of people all along the East Coast of the US mysteriously killing themselves for no apparent reason. It begins in New York in Central Park. People suddenly stop what ever they are doing, walk backwards and start killing themselves. What ever is causing this soon spreads throughout New York ending in a hilarious scene where builders begin leaping off of the building they are working on.

It’s in the next scene, in Philidelphia, that we meet Mark Wahlberg as Elliot Moore, the worst science teacher in the world. He believes in auras and mood rings and at one point, with regard to the disappearance of bees, he actually says:

“Science will come up with some reason to put in the books, but in the end it’ll be just a theory. I mean, we will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding. To be a scientist, you must have a respectful awe for the laws of nature.”

Wow, that is truly, truly awful. I can agree with the last sentence but everything before it is terrible. Just a theory? There is no way that a scientist would consider the meaning of the word ‘theory’ to be a guess. That’s the colloquial definition of theory. In science a theory must be based on observed facts and make testable predictions. It must have no equally acceptable or more acceptable alternative theory and it must have survived attempts at falsification. And what’s this crap about acknowledging that there are forces beyond our understanding? A scientists job is to explore those forces and try to understand them. In short, Elliot Moore should not be teaching anyone science. Still, despite all this, Mark Wahlberg is the best thing in this film. More on that later.

Anyway, the school principal, played by Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, closes the school early and Elliot and his best friend, Julian (John Leguizamo), decide to get the fuck outta dodge and get a train to Julian’s mother’s house in Harrisburg. They are accompanied by Julian’s recurring plot device… I mean daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) and Elliot’s wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel, yes, she actually spells her name that way.) It’s hinted that Alma may have cheated on Elliot in some way and that she’s still lying to her husband about it. I hope that pays off well.

The train is stopped in the middle on nowhere because, as the train drivers say, “We lost contact… With everyone.” Wow, powerful stuff. Anyway everyone holds up in a tiny diner for a while, getting constant updates on the situation from the TV. This is also where the greatest scene in the entire film occurs. It is literally awesome. In fact, let’s make it a Great Scene From Shit Films entry as well. Ok, here it is:

(I’m sorry, I thought there was a better quality version of this scene on YouTube but I couldn’t find it.)

Fuck me. That dude got his arms all ripped off by lions. Thankyou movie, honestly, for letting me see that. At least you have a reason for existing. That’s more than most of the Razzie films I’ve watched for this segment. Let’s back to the story. Julian can’t get in touch with his wife on the phone and decides to go to Princeton to find her, leaving his daughter with Elliot and his missus. He get’s a ride in a jeep being driven by Dante from Clerks, though you never clearly see his face, his beard in the side view mirror is enough to give him away. Sadly, Julian never meets his wife because, after another hilarious scene which features a bunch of bodies hanging down the road in Princeton, air leaks into the Jeep and everyone becomes infected. Dante intentionally crashes the jeep, somehow managing to propel the person behind Julian over him and through the windshield. Julian survives only to get out of the jeep, pick up a piece of shattered glass and slice open his wrist.

Meanwhile Elliot and co. manage to hitch a ride with a hot dog obsessed botanist and his wife. The botanist doesn’t believe the official story behind what’s going on, that terrorists are behind the mysterious events. Instead he believes it’s plants, because all plants can communicate with each other and they’ve all evolved to want to take us all down a peg. This is, of course, blatantly stupid. Even if plant’s can communicate with members of their own species (and such communication is pretty much limited to releasing chemicals to warn others when they are being eaten so that the others can increase toxin production) they certainly can’t communicate with other species. It’s also impossible to assume that they all evolved this strange neurotoxin at once. Plant evolution works in exactly the same way as animal evolution. The smaller, quicker-breeding plants can mutate quicker whilst the large, slower-breeding plants mutate at a much slower rate, therefore there’s no way the trees and grass could all do this at the same time. Unless it was all part of some nefarious plot, the grass evolving this ability centuries ago and have since been waiting for trees to catch up. Now that they have, the time to strike has come! No… That’s too stupid, even for The Happening.

The group soon meets up with a few more survivors and they begin walking to a lightly populated town in hope of escaping the terrorist attack. They split into two groups, with Elliot, Alma and Jess’ group being in the front whilst the second, larger group follows behind. Suddenly, the first group hears gunshots and realises that the second group are killing themselves. Not only that but the botanist was right! It is the plants! Oh my god! This scene leads up to one of the moments that makes Mark Wahlberg the best thing about this film. He is hilarious.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wow. Just wow. Throughout the film Wahlberg acts like this and it actually makes the film watchable. If not for him, The Happening would be a boring piece of shit with an incredibly stupid plot. I salute you Mark Wahlberg and your heroic mastery of the craft of non-acting or whatever it is that you’re doing.

This scene then leads into one of the stupidest things ever put to film. Did I mention this film was stupid? Well, what happens next is a scene wherein Wahlberg’s group runs away from the wind. Yes, there’s certainly nothing more exciting in all the world than seeing a bunch of people run away from the wind. And that’s pretty much the point where the film completely falls apart. Each scene is more ridiculous that the last. There’s sights you’d never thought you’d see like Mark Wahlberg pointing to a big house in plain view of everyone and shouting “Hey, there’s a big house.” Mark Wahlberg talking to a plastic potted plant, asking it’s permission to use the bathroom. We also found out what it was that Alma was feeling so guilty about. She confesses to Elliot that she and a co-worker went out for GASP! dessert and she never told him about it! Really? That’s it movie? That’s your big infidelity storyline? Fuck you movie. Fuck you. There’s an awesome scene of a man getting himself run over by a ride on lawn mower and there’s a crazy old lady who lives alone and doesn’t like it when people eye her lemon drink.

It’s while staying at this old lady’s house that Mark Wahlberg’s performance reaches it’s pinnacle, where Wahlberg truly reaches for the stars:

There’s something about this scene that makes it seem as though Elliot was planning to kill the old women, even though I’m pretty sure that never crossed the character’s mind. Maybe he suffers from a similar condition to me. I find it really hard to sound sincere when I say thankyou, even when I genuinely mean it. Maybe Elliot really has a problem trying to sound as though he’s not going to kill someone, even when he has no intention of doing so.

Anyway, the film culminates with The Happening not happening any more just as Elliot, Alma and Jess have to go outside. I mean literally just before. It’s so fucking stupid it makes me damn, damn mad. Anyway, Jess is adopted by Elliot and Alma, Alma get’s knocked up and a man on the TV posits that this was just a warning. We then cut to Paris where The Happening begins to happen again. This time, however, it only lasts a few hours as the French immediately surrender and France is soon ruled by trees. Sorry to any French readers but, well, who can resist?

So there you have it. The Happening was easily the most entertaining film I’ve seen out of the Razzie nominations, largely due to the hilarious performance of Mark Wahlberg. Seriously, without him this would have been an awful, awful film but because of him it’s just a stupidly fun bad film that gets two pints out of five.



5 Top Films Still To Come In 2009 by Jamie

As you may know by now, I’ve been pretty disappointed with 2009 so far. In general it’s been a pretty goddamn terrible year for films what with shit like Wolverine, Friday the 13th and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hitting the screens. Sure there have been some bright sparks here and there but overall, it’s been pretty awful. Now the year is over halfway through so shouldn’t we just give up entirely? No because there are still some films to be released that I hope might bring the years overall score up a little. Let’s look at he top 5 films I’m still looking forward to.

5: Inglorious Basterds (UK/US release date: 21/08/2009)

Yes, Tarantino’s WWII themed spaghetti-western comes in at number 5. It has his largest cast of speaking roles in a flim so far and tells the story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers who are on a mission to kill as many Nazi’s as they possibly can while a Jewish girl attempts to avenge the death of her family at the hands of an SS Colonel referred to as ‘The Jew Hunter’.

Now, I generally love Tarantino films so I can help but look forward to this one, especially with a cast that includes Brad Pitt, who has been pretty consistently great in everything he’s been in since Fight Club. The film also boasts performances from Eli Roth, Mike Myers and the while things narrated by the bad motherfucker himself, Samuel L. Jackson. The only reason that this film isn’t higher is that the film recieved a bit of bad press when it was screened but it was still the only American film at the festival to recieve any kind of award so time will tell whether this film lives up to my expectations or just adds to the massive dissapointment of 2009.

4: Where The Wild Things Are (US release date: 16/10/09)

This is the story of a kid who wears weird pajamas who goes and plays with massive furry monsters voiced by Tony Soprano in a weird forest that gets bombed or something. I dunno, I never read the book as a kid as far as I can remember, which to be honest may have meant that I read it several times. I have a shit memory.

So the main reason I’ve put this on here is the technique of making the weird monster creatures is really interesting and, from the trailer at least, it looks as though it works really well. Will it actually be any good? As I understand the book it’s adapted from is actually really quite short and we all know where that can lead (The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat).

3: Taking Woodstock (US release date: 28/08/09)

Directed by Ang Lee this is an R rated comedy based on the true life story of Elliot Tiber, a guy whose parents owned a motel and the only music festival permit in Bethel, New York. He offered both of these things to the Woodstock Music Festival.

Now this film ticks a number of boxes that make me look forward to it. A cast of people I enjoy: Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Eugene Levy. Tick. A subject that I’m interested in: Woodstock. Tick. R-Rated comedy. Tick. So all in all this film looks like it’s going to be right down my alley. Here’s hoping this isn’t another 2009 dissapointment.

2: Sherlock Holmes (UK release date: 25/12/09)

Guy Ritchie’s period action film about the world’s most famous detective (except maybe Batman) starring Robert Downie Jr. and Jude Law as the Victorian dynamic duo is certainly one to look forward to. I was a little concerned when I first saw the trailer, thinking that they’d made Holmes into some kind of 19th century James Bond but hey, the fashion these days is taking classic characters and reinvisioning them so why not Holmes too?

Also it’s got Robert Downie Jr. in it for fucks sake! He’s consistently proving that he’s one of the best actors we’ve got these days and I’m sure some people will soon begin complaining that he’s over-exposed but who cares as long as he can consistently deliver sterling performances?

1: District 9 (UK/US release date: 19/08/09)

I don’t think anyone should be surprised by this. In fact, is there anyone who’s not looking forward to this film? It’s the story of aliens living in a segregated community (District 9) in South Africa. The community is controlled by the human corporation Multi-National United (MNU) who have no interest in the aliens welfare. In fact the only thing the humans are interested in is their technology which won’t work without alien DNA. Suddenly an MNU worker contracts an alien virus which begins to mutate his genes, making him the key to humans being able to use the alien weaponry. He becomes a hunted man and, becoming ostracised and friendless, he takes shelter in the only place he can, District 9.

I’ll admit, I was a little shocked when the first full trailer came out and showed this was a far more straightforward film rather than the documentary style I had come to expect from the teasers but I get the feeling that there will probably be a decent mix of both styles which will make me very, very happy indeed. Man, I can’t wait for this to be released. In fact the only problem with District 9 is that it heavily features the worst accent on Earth. Sorry South Africans, but really, it’s like someone smacking my ears with a frying pan. Still, hopefully someone will say ‘Diplomatic Immunity.’ Then all will be well.




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