The Happening (2008)
At the start of his career in filmmaking, M. Night Shyamalan could do nothing wrong. His three first films, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs where groundbreaking, trendsetting chillers of immaculate filmatic brilliance. His best achievement was the way he created his characteristic chilling atmospheres. In a time dominated by a surplus of mechanical, unremarkable horror in which uncreative writers and directors rely on sound effects for scares, Shyamalan was in a league of his own. His wildly disappointing Lady in the Water two years ago was the first film in which the director didn't really deploy his trademark horror ambience. With The Happening, he proves that he still has the touch.
With that said, The Happening has inherited some of Lady in the Water's weaknesses. The difference is that they function better this time. The acting is uneven to say the least, and when Shyamalan sticks his camera in the performers' faces for lengthy dramatic effect, it is hard to take him seriously sometimes. There is rarely a hint of irony in Shyamalan's work - a combination which gives The Happening a classic B-movie feel - but what a B-movie! I'm quite certain Tarantino loves the combo, as we are presented one of the eeriest thriller premises since... well, since Shyamalan was last in this kind of form. The narrative structure is reminiscent of last year's I Am Legend, but I have no trouble enjoying such spine-chilling, delicately apocalyptic stories two years in a row. It is less important whether or not a film like this is scientifically accurate, what's important is that it is relevant. And even if The Happening hasn't quite got the class of Francis Lawrence's film, it matches the tension and suspense.