The Happening

The Happening ★★★★½

a film about what it means to consolidate matters of communication and distance in light of the total collapse of collectivist strength and the social utility therein—about America’s zealotry for strident individualism pushed to its ultimate end by nothing more than the wind through the trees. obviously stands out as the preeminent inheritor to the precise, anti-naturalistic mode of environmental terror that Hitchcock manifests in The Birds, though it’s equally obvious that Shyamalan has no interest in letting such anti-naturalism dictate the tenor of the film’s emotional undercurrents. he’s trading in the grammar of eco-horror “B-movies,” to be sure, but Shyamalan is too idiosyncratic and committed to his beliefs to undermine his trademark demonstrations of empathy and catharsis with any note of insincerity. along the same lines, i often see the performances in his films from this era qualified as Brechtian or Bressonian in some way, which i somewhat understand (much more for the former than the latter), but even here, where his camera so frequently alienates through how faces are framed, the comparison neglects to acknowledge that Wahlberg and Deschanel are themselves so clearly game to go along with Shyamalan’s direction and so in-tune with what the film is going for overall. each of them wholly embodies the desperation and confusion that ought to come about when dealing with an event of this scale, an act of nature truly beyond our understanding (which gains its lethality by driving human behavior beyond the point of coherence, no less). it all then goes back to one of the director’s most successful thematic gambits—the introduction of Elliot’s mood ring, an object whose symbolic mutability serves as the perfect foil and corollary to the incomprehensibility of the event itself. the ring’s meaning is purely arbitrary, and yet that’s what makes it essential in grounding the humanity of these relationships. 

at once Shyamalan’s most nihilistic film & one of his most supremely beautiful 

more tk, maybe…


• seems worth noting that like my experience with The Birds, this strikes me as now being the director’s most effective film in terms of eliciting affect from horror (i.e. this is his scariest movie!)
• this is probably Marky’s best performance <3 and definitely Deschanel’s

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