This movie is hilariously bad. In fact, it’s so bad I’ve heard that Shyamalan is attempting some damage control by claiming the worst scenes of the film were intentional references to B-movie schlock. Consider several scenes where the characters attempt to outrun wind. Or another scene where Marky Mark tries to placate an angry houseplant by telling it they don’t mean any harm; they just want to use the bathroom and leave. The film goes off the rails in the final quarter once they arrive at a backwoods madwoman’s house and attempt to take shelter. It’s so awkward and poorly-scripted it garners a “Manos: The Hands of Fate” type of audience reaction long before we see the woman’s demonic doll collection and her final rampage where she goes around the house ramming her head through windows.
What Shyamalan must have thought were quirky, memorable characters only come across as examples of excess and directoral self-indulgence. Wahlberg and gang are offered a ride from a gardener with a hot dog fetish (because “hot dogs get a bad rap from everybody”), while John Leguizamo tries to get back to Princeton in a Jeep driven by none other than a suicidal Dante Hicks (seriously). The crazy old woman slaps children for reaching for cornbread at a meal she invited them to, then starts shrieking at Wahlberg that he’s planning her murder because he wants her trademarked lemon drink. Another scene where Wahlberg tries to pacify a group of shotgun-wielding New England hillbillies by singing the Doobie Brothers may go down in history as one of the most face-slappingly stupid things ever filmed.
Worse, I have no idea what Shyamalan or the director of photography were thinking when they filmed this movie, because it’s probably the worst-shot movie I’ve seen since Battlefield: Earth, in which every single shot was filmed at an extreme Dutch angle. In this movie, nearly three-quarters of the shots are filmed in extremely tight close-ups, to the point where it feels like we’re really invading each actor’s personal space. The other fourth of the shots are of wind blowing through trees and shrubberies, as if they’re meant to be intimidating. They’re not, and no amount of slow-motion is going to change that.
I found myself growing rather disturbed when I thought about this movie later, when I began to realize what exactly this movie is trying to say. One could argue it’s just a poorly-executed, hamfisted message that we need to be more ecologically-aware (or the trees will kill us), but I believe that it’s a bitter, sociopathic suggestion that we as a species need to be culled. The movie itself says that “we are a threat to this planet,” which you may agree with, but seems to suggest that the answer to this isn’t our reform, but our decimation. It’s a borderline endorsement of terrorism, as if some eco-nut releasing nerve gas in the middle of a city is something to be celebrated.
It’s very worrying to me what this says about people who might like this film, and anyone involved in its production.