Saturday, March 01, 2008

Is M. Night Shyamalan making fun of himself?

This poster has been appearing at theaters, and at long last, the trailer has appeared to accompany it. It's a dark, mysterious movie about an unexplained global phenomenon, replete with twists and narrative trickyness, titled with an ominous, non-specific noun, and it's being released on Friday the 13th. Come on... does anyone else find this funny? Does Mr. Shyamalan himself?

If it was done by anyone else, it would just look like a supernatural disaster movie. Those have had a resurgence recently... Cloverfield and the forthcoming The Signal are two pretty obvious examples, and I Am Legend sort of counts, as well. This could even be a poster for a more benign 28 Days Later. The Happening doesn't have the most brilliant marketing, but Shyamalan's other movies haven't either. I don't think any of us are suckers for the totally enigmatic, minimalist black-background ambient noise approach at this point. Signs, The Village, and Lady in the Water have all been carried by Shyamalan's name at the box office, and that's fine. He proved himself with The Sixth Sense, and now we know the guy's just a good filmmaker.

So his name's on it, and we kind of know what we're in for. In fact, looking at the poster, it seems like we know almost EXACTLY what we're in for. This looks like Signs and The Village revisited, with those stormy skies and that strange, threatening outside world. You may already smell the twist at the end, the discovery that it's all a trick of the mind, or that it was a conspiracy perpetrated on you alone, and the rest of the world was just playing along. You may already anticipate that the escape plan has been there from the start, and you were just overlooking it. When you saw that two-word title... The Happening... you might have laughed.

But read the tagline, and tell me you don't think Shyamalan isn't laughing too, at least to himself. "You've Sensed It. You've Seen the Signs. Now... it's Happening." The people working on this movie have no desire to create a one-of-a-kind film experience. They wanted to make a Shyamalan movie, and they wanted it to inherit the awesomeness from his previous efforts.

But if you're like me, that might be good enough to get you out there:

Hey, I'm there, ten bucks in hand.

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