An Open Letter to M. Night Shyamalan

So, um, hey. About your movie “The Happening”…

Look, M (do you mind if I call you M?), I like your movies. “The Sixth Sense” was awesome. I enjoyed “Unbreakable.” “Signs” was a fun movie, even though Mel ‘Kill All The Jews, They Killed Christ’ Gibson was tragically miscast.

I’ll even give you “Lady in the Water.” I enjoyed it, despite the critical savaging.

But dear God, M, what were you thinking when you wrote “The Happening?”

For starters, there’s the title. I really, really wish you’d chosen a different title for this film, something perhaps a bit more appropriate to the story. You see, “The Happening” makes the movie sound like it might be interesting or mysterious, and that’s just plain false advertising. I would perhaps recommend a different name, something like “When Maples Attack” or “Poplars Gone Wild.” Then perhaps I would have gone into the theater with a clearer sense of what to expect, or more likely given it a miss altogether.

And dude, seriously, Learn something about science. Please. Anything about science. If your main character is a scientist, it helps to know at least a little bit about the field. Knowing what science is might be a good start.

Here’s a hint, that I’ll give you as a freebie without charging you a script consulting fee because I like you. No scientist would ever say something like “Science doesn’t prove anything. At the end of the day, any explanation is just a theory.”

See, simply by using phrases like “just a theory,” you demonstrate that you don’t know what the word “theory” means. Unlike, for example, a character who is, say…a scientist.

And enough with the “camera staring at the actor’s face so we can see how they’re emoting” schtick. It worked well enough in “The Sixth Sense,” but by the time you’d gotten to “The Village” we’d all been clobbered over the head with it enough. We get it, we get it. Your characters Feel Profound Emotions. How ’bout branching out a bit, developing a new visual language, rather than relying on the same tool over and over again, m’kay? We’ll all appreciate it. I’m just sayin’.

Oh, and about your characters Feeling Profound Emotions…that’s nice, but occasionally we’d like to see them do something, too. Passivity gets annoying after a while, y’know? When every single character in a movie, including extras in the background of the scenes, ends up dead save for three, and those three are saved only by pure luck and not as a consequence of any of their own actions, that’s not Bold Storytelling. It’s tedious, pointless dreck. The audience likes to see a story unfold as the result of the actions of the characters. Occasionally, it’s nice to see characters making decisions and doing things which advance the story arc, too. Again, I’m just sayin’.

And what’s with the little old lady in the run-down house? I haven’t seen a more pointless and ultimately unsatisfying side plot since the unbearable scene with the psycho pedophile in the basement in the awful film version of “War of the Worlds.”

Oh, while we’re talking about characters, consistency? Please? Look, M, I know they’re your characters and you can do what you want and all, but when the main character keeps alternating randomly between “smart and determined” (as in “He sure is resilient, isn’t he?”) and “dumb as a box of rocks,” with occasional detours through the land of “socially incompetent,” “utterly passive,” and “freaking out because it’s windy,” he doesn’t really feel like a character. Goddamnit, I’ve seen 70s porn flicks with greater depth and better character development.

Like I said, M, I don’t want to tell you your job, but if you’re making a movie that’s supposed to be a character study, a good place to start might be with a character.

I really gotta tell you, M, if you want to keep getting my money, you gotta stop with the movies that make me feel like I’ve just wasted two hours of my life I’ll never have back again. Kthx.


PS: You owe me ten bucks.