Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel
Storyline: A mysterious air-borne toxin forces people to kill themselves
Bottomline: Happening. Not.
After Lady in the Water, M. Night Shyamalan probably had a nightmare.
He could see people walk out of the cinema halls halfway into his film and kill themselves because they couldn’t take it any more.
He woke up and wrote and wrote and wrote… Different ways how people could kill themselves… They could jump off the roof, shoot themselves, lie down in front of a lawn-mower, bang their heads into glass windows, cut off their veins if car-crashing doesn’t work…
He didn’t have a plot as such, so he looked back at his films – he’s shown the living dead, a superhuman born on earth, aliens from outer space, a village that lived in the past, nymphs and scrunts from water – and realised that logical progression demanded paranormal activity out of thin air.
So he finished his script in a line: A mysterious air-borne toxin (which will remain mysterious till the end of the film) is making people kill themselves all along the West Coast of America. Coming up next in the order could be a film about weirdos from the future.
Now, we already know that Shyamalan has the knack of stretching short story scripts to a feature-length thriller and we’ve never had a problem with that because he manages to weave in a conflict (both for the protagonist of the film and the larger community) and resolve it with a little bit of logical reasoning.
Here, you are let down from the story department because he sticks to the most convenient of horror film explanations – that some things are just an act of nature and cannot be explained. Zombie films offer better reasoning.
There is one genuinely funny scene in the film. Mark Wahlberg, wasted thoroughly in this let’s-run-away-from-air misadventure, after figuring out that plants and trees are causing the plague that causes people to kill themselves, decides to apologise because he heard they respond to human stimulus… only to realise he was barking up the wrong tree made of plastic.
There are some truly spooky shots of trees in the wind but that’s where the horror quotient ends.
Most shots of people killing themselves look straight out of like a laugh out loud spoof. And since this starts happening right from scene one, at no point do you take this film seriously. But then, as long as you are laughing and being entertained, who cares what’s happening.