We are in an unprecedented situation.
Movies have seemingly prepared us for this moment in ways that actually are not completely helpful. Whether it is the entire Roland Emmerich canon of disaster films, Soderbergh’s Contagion, Brad Pitt in World War Z, Will Smith in I am Legend or a litany of others that present the world coming under attack of some real, imagined or invisible foe.
But that’s not the story. Not even by a long shot.
The story, of course, is that despite all of society latching onto the visual memories of a thousand disaster flicks, ranging from Volcano to The Poseidon Adventure to Dante’s Peak to The Day After Tomorrow, there is one movie that no one ever gave substantial props to, which now appears as a completely misguided approach as we face coronavirus.
We threw validity at Soderbergh. We tossed coinage at Emmerich. We bought tubs of popcorn and brought concession cash to the exhibitors when Tom and Brad and Will fought back at the kind of odds we never expected to be up against ourselves.
But we lampooned M. Night Shyamalan and The Happening.
And since nobody saw it, let’s recap what that movie was actually about:
The Happening was a thriller from 2008 that told the story of an apocalyptic threat to humanity as it arrives out of the clear blue sky with a series of violent, inexplicable deaths spreading across the country. The cause of the terrifying phenomenon remains unknown, prompting science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and his colleague Julian (John Leguizamo) to try to elude the invisible killer in Pennsylvania’s farmland. Soon it becomes clear that no one is safe. In the end, of course, the realization is that plants (yes, plants) are targeting the human population with an invisible toxin that kills.
Plants, bats. Toxins, viruses. Potato, potahto.
The Happening had an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, was lampooned by audiences, and garnered significant blowback from critics who claimed it was, “idiotic”, “paranoid”, “ridiculous”, “not scary”, “absurdly preachy” and “more preposterous than profound.”
Clearly, the real twist around M. Night and The Happening, is that almost twelve years later the events in question are more real than I Am Legend, World War Z, The Day After Tomorrow and yes, even, Volcano. And we would be remiss if we didn’t give credit where credit was due, and hope that the true heroes of society’s ills are the teachers, the scientists, the health workers…and not the traditional looking heroes.
Yes, despite the fact that Mark Wahlberg played a teacher.
So while we try to keep panic at bay, and attempt to remove the visual memories solidified in our brains from decades of overblown disaster epics starring some of the biggest celebrities on the face of the Earth, we would instead encourage everyone to wash away the $300 million dollar global epics and instead turn their attentions to the ones we pushed away for their preachy, ridiculous, paranoid, idiotic concepts of an invisible killer from nature seeking to reduce the human population in the most subtle of ways.
Yes, the real twist is that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie was more profound and right than anything else Hollywood has ever created.
Except for Marky Mark.
Stay safe out there, people.