M. Night Shyamalan has made a great living creating films with creepy themes and twist endings. I've always felt that his work is more terrifying than most because he successfully integrates reality and fantasy.
His newest film, "The Happening," is another example of this strategy. In the film, Shyamalan feeds into global fears about environmental catastrophe with a story about plants that release a toxic gas to defend themselves against human degradation of the planet. Apparently the gas released by these plants is a neurotoxin that forces people to commit violent suicides.
The film follows an estranged couple (Mark Walberg and Zooey Deschanel) as they attempt to escape the effects of the gas.
This isn't the only ecological disaster film slated for an upcoming release. The novel, The Swarm, has received the "green light" with its tale of an oceanic alien that wreaks havoc on humans in retaliation for our pollution. James Cameron is also currently working on an upcoming eco-film called "Avatar," which he describes as, "an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience."
Its hard to say what impact a large number of environmentally focused films might have on our culture. There could be a backlash where people get tired of being barraged by pro-environment messages. There could also be increased awareness of how closely tied humans are to their environment. Either way, be prepared for an onslaught of movies about the environment in coming months.
To hear an interview from NPR with Shyamalan about the environmental themes in "The Happening" click HERE.