M Night Shyamalan isn’t letting Lady in the Water take him down (“I’ve got shit to say!”) – he’s back in the game, and for the first time ever, he’s making an R-rated movie.
The film is called The Happening, and it might be familiar to you, since he was selling the thing in Hollywood a couple of months back as The Green Effect. None of the studios wanted the script, so Shyamalan went home to Philadelphia and retooled what he had. Working from notes by Tom Rothman, the big feller at Fox, Night ramped up the horror aspects in his script, making it more ‘adult.’ Rothman looked at the changes and said they were good, so now The Happening is happening at Fox.
"Tom [Rothman] felt strongly about making this my first R-rated picture," Shyamalan said. "We talked about trying to get the kind of intensity that is present in ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ and the kind that Guillermo del Toro got in `Pan’s Labyrinth.’ The impact of the beautiful things in that movie wouldn’t have landed as strongly if the film had not been R rated."
Latino Review had a review of the original script, which sees a strange airborne toxin released in every city in the world. People affected off themselves in terrible ways (one guy playing a violin stabs himself in the mouth with his own bow), and it turns out that the catastrophe is environmental in nature – is the Earth fighting back against our pollution (ugh, probably. Lame concept)? Night’s script is about a family trying to survive in this scenario, and it’s described as a “paranoid thriller.”
This isn’t just Night’s first R-rated movie, it’s also his first for Fox. The director originally worked only at Disney, but after a smart person at that studio balked at Lady in the Water (she was fired before being proven right), Night had a falling out with the studio. He made his big bomb at Warner Bros, who obviously wasn’t that interested in continuing in the M Night business.
Will making this movie R-rated make it better? Lady in the Water would have been a lot better if Bryce Dallas Howard had shown some of what she showed in Manderlay, that’s for sure. The basic premise of The Happening sounds sort of lame, and so does the title, which sounds like it’s a parody of a 60s event. But the problems that M Night has aren’t about ratings – he’s a filmmaker dripping in pretence, a guy who takes himself and his work so seriously that he’s turning into a joke.