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The Happening

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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Man Cannot Explain Every Phenomena, But He Tries To Explain Through Deductive Reasoning...

  • Aug 8, 2010
Act of God- A direct and sudden event or action of certain unexplainable forces that could not be reasonably foreseen; it compromises all evidence and defies all attempts at explanation by Science.

THE HAPPENING is writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest outing after his somewhat disappointing “Lady in the Water”. This director’s films are lyrical in tone but often has a darkness in their proceedings; Shyamalan‘s films are also thematic in their execution and “The Happening“ is no different. Pronounced as his first “R-Rated” film, this latest offering is as imaginative as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs”. His films are a “hit” or a “miss”, I’m not a solid fan but his films are certainly original. Certain viewers will probably feel a bit alienated because of its main premise, but no one can deny that the film does explore humanity‘s greatest threat: the unknown and the unexplainable.

               Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel in "The Happening."

              On the run from a widening crisis, Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) check out an abandoned home in "The Happening."

One morning, in a major city in the U.S., everyone seems to be minding their own business, doing their chores, working their shifts, until suddenly, a barrage of unexplainable suicides happen one after the other. Citizens commit violence against themselves and the only explanation the media can offer is a terrorist attack or a deadly toxin released by either terrorists and then plants. Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) is a science teacher who bases most things on deductive reasoning and logical explanations; has to flee the city for the countryside with his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel) together with a small group of survivors to try to escape the invisible threat. However, what they come across with may defy all semblances of logical human explanation.

Shyamalan may have summoned the bleakest array of disturbing images in the film’s beginning. The nightmare and mayhem by eventual suicides are thoroughly visible; hairpins are driven to jugulars, construction workers jumping off buildings, cops shooting themselves, people crawling under their own lawnmowers, zoo keepers offering themselves as a the main course to lions. The director offers a lot of truly bleak hysteria and will definitely make your skin crawl. The images are full of intense sequences of mass suicide especially in the first act, which is worthy of the price of a movie ticket by itself. It is dark, moody and bleak that will definitely leave some viewers very affected as it dishes out all the lurid details.

                 A scene from "The Happening."

                A scene from "The Happening."

The film emulates a very strong feeling of dread, the unknown and further accentuated by the confused media broadcasts which attempt to explain the phenomena. Elliot has his own theories as well as a kindly farmer which he has crossed paths with. There is also a feeling of helplessness as our cast finds themselves fleeing from one path to another, avoiding heavily populated places with large amounts of deaths. Human panic and fear is also explored with a very bleak execution. Some may say that Shyamalan missed some opportunities as the film seems like a rethread of his film, “Signs”, with a family caught in all the chaos. While this may be so in a way, I do think that “The Happening” is a lot more intense with its premise and its ability to unnerve is more omnipresent.

Elliot offers some theories of the ‘event’ as Wahlberg makes his best expressions of being puzzled, flabbergasted and confused. This man has been on a roll lately, I liked him in “Shooter” and “The Departed”; Markie-mark pulls off a very decent performance. His supporting cast isn’t so bad either. Zooey Deschanel does appear doopy but I thought that was required of her character. The dialogue still has the usual “quippy” remarks as is reminiscent in Shyamalan’s “Signs” that are also an acceptable practice to tone down its bleakness somehow and to express different personalities in a certain situation. I liked the nice touches by the director as he shows the blowing wind as a harbinger of doom, as if a mighty hand envelopes the surroundings with an irresistible force. The only fault the film may have is that it seemed to run out of a lot of gas in the second half as he somehow exhausts his ideas. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that it may be near-impossible to keep up such a powerful start; but it was just so sad that a strong first half couldn‘t be matched by its second half. It became a little too repetitive, tried to be too melodramatic  and relies so much on some devices that some viewers got the wrong impression on its theme. (the cause wasn’t the plants)

             A scene from "The Happening."

             Mark Wahlberg as Elliot Moore in "The Happening."

It’s impossible for me to say anything more without spoiling the film, the film is a cannon of a horror film in its first act. Complemented with a very bleak tone that stays within a lyrical execution and a good soundtrack, with Wahlberg’s confused looks, “The Happening” is a satisfying diversion. Its main theme of the unknown promises a change of pace and some viewers may argue that it still followed the same formulas. The film may be somewhat hampered with familiar rethreads of a chase film but it‘s overshadowed by what its trying to say. If you’re familiar with this director’s films; you’ll know that he has certain motifs and themes, it’s not so much with dealing with answers but asking the answers; and why the answers elude us.

The film’s climax may disappoint some viewers as the film never does offer any solid answers; which is the whole point. I can just hear them now; so what was the cause? I thought it was quite good for Shyamalan to encourage these questions, but those who like being spoon-fed the details should just stay away. How can you explain the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle...of Rogue Waves? After all, how do you explain an “ACT OF GOD”?

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Man Cannot Explain Every Phenomena, But He Tries To Explain Through Deductive Reasoning...

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December 03, 2010
This is actually one review I can't get behind.  The ambiguity didn't bother me it was that many of the characters and the abrupt ending didn't even give the audience much to interpret for themselves.  I will NEVER EVER let a film maker's ambitious themes and motifs be a substitute for bad film making or laziness and I think M. Night Shyamalan defenders (although I don't think you are one) have to stop relying on that, "The point is for you to think about this..." then M. Night has to actually plant that seed somehow and he can't JUST do it within the last five minutes.  Then the thought provocation feels tacked on or lazy.  The characters offer up plants but it's only within the last five minutes or so that it becomes, "Maybe it was God... or mother nature or..." the only suggestion missing was goddamn aliens!

So I can't let M. Night get away with laziness on that part and the terrible script and the beyond awful acting (but M. Night just isn't a very good writer, is his problem).  I think there has to be something more.  Redeeming value of some sort.  It doesn't have to be answers, but we shouldn't just accept laziness as "open ended and perhaps you should interpret for yourself."  Especially from a guy who thinks he's a genius.  I just can't let that kind of poor execution slide and I'm actually disturbed by the number of people who constantly jump up and defend any movie that causes thought-provocation.  Just because it does I don't think that necessarily makes it a good or even acceptable film.

Or I just hated the movie that much, your choice, but I rarely go negative and The Happening was one of the few films I felt was worth going negative on.

It's a nice review, but I'm finding it hard to see through the fog on this one.  I'm just not seeing that redeeming factor that so many others who've jumped in to defend this movie did.
December 03, 2010
Yeah, I can see where you are coming from. I actually agree with you that the 2nd half was close to being terrible and all that drama and tension in the first half went nowhere. I understand, and you know I am not one to defend this director but I am not sure, maybe it was just me, that perhaps I am so used to Japanese horror like Kairo and Marebito, that it may have helped along my tolerance of this movie.

I think part of this movie's failings in the fact that it didn't deliver on what folks expected from it. I do agree, that Shyamalan isn't that good a writer and is now showing his weaknesses as writer/director (my review on Devil and Last Airbender just showed his flaws),  but I did like Unbreakable quite a bit, so he does have it, but I think he lost it.

Yes, there was some areas that needed better execution in this movie, and yes, Shyamalan is mistaken if he thinks he's a genius,( maybe that is what got him in this position in the first place. ) I guess as flawed as this movie was, it was better than the other garbage out there (I know, it's not an excuse)--it did have ambition (it actually planted the seed in the first act albeit too quickly), and you're right that it is no excuse to be lazy, but sometimes...I try to just maybe read too much between the lines.

Yeah, me, Jenny and Christy defended this movie before, and while I know it wasn't the best, I guess you can say I respected it for what it tried to do (unsuccessfully to most folks)but honestly, I sure wished it was better. Then again, I hated Lady in the maybe my expectations were very low and I was in the right mindset at the time with this film.

We'll see, this was an old review so let's see how I feel about it once I watch it again...this review was more of a reaction to the negative reviews it got in amazon saying that it was the plants in 5-10 sentences, maybe I just wanted to share my thoughts...

thanks for the read, bud!
December 03, 2010
Actually it seems like each new film Shyamalan makes is worse than the previous.  I actually enjoyed The Sixth Sense... and then Unbreakable was pretty good.  Then after that I don't think I liked any of his films again.  I don't usually have expectations, but when it came The Happening I even tempered them because my thought was, "Can you get much worse than 'Lady in the Water?'  Then I saw this and I thought, "Maybe M. Night just needed a bunch of practice runs before he can give us something good again!"  Then I saw The Last Airbender and decided that maybe I'll seal that well for good.
December 03, 2010
well, Shyamalan made the right decision in hiring another director for script in "Devil" --bet the producers made him do that. LOL! I have to say that Last Airbender is his worst film ever.
December 03, 2010
oh, I am a fan of Zooey DesChanel LOL!
August 09, 2010
Reminds me I have to see this, even if it is not that good.
August 08, 2010
Yeah I thought this was good as well man, great review WP. I was also glad to see John Leguizamo in this as well as a cameo by Brian O'Halloran [Clerks].
August 08, 2010
Thanks for the read, man. Move your review over?
August 08, 2010
call me morbid, but i found myself laughing at some of the suiside scenes, but other than that it was a good intense movie especially from a director who's movies usually suck....hello Last Airbender! the ending was weird but somewhat approprate....great review.
August 08, 2010
"The Last Airbender" was Horrible...makes this seem like an Oscar-worthy film LOL! I did like his first two movies, (Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and somewhat enjoyed "Signs") and this just didn't reach its ambition in the 2nd half and its ending--Shymalan missed his own theme in some ways but you are right, it was appropriate. Oh, I do agree, some suicide scenes were too melodramatic.
August 08, 2010
Wow, WOOPY, I can tell you are a movie buff. I don't go this deep into the directors and producers and all because I don't compare in that way (not qualified to do so). I just know what I like and what I don't so I get the review done, one way or another. Much better with books; that's my forte, but I so enjoy movies and celebrities. That's why I write celeb interviews... LOl Awesome review, as always, my friend. xo
August 08, 2010
You're actually pretty good with movie reviews yourself, I am the one who is still trying to find his rhythm to book reviews. I am trying to finish this book I got for free for a review and I just can't get into it. I think you'd better give me pointers--what do I do when I can't feel a rhythm to the writing and pacing of the story? Where are the celebrity interviews? :)
August 08, 2010
I run them on Dames of Dialogue and then later they will be published in Dream Reachers: Vol. 2. Our Dream Reachers (1st one) is at Amazon now. New one won't be out until early 2011. Here is Quentin's Father's interview link: If you go there, perhaps you might leave a comment. He's a very nice man, as you can see from the interview. Hope you enjoy it. I also did Al Pacino's stepmom, actress and another fine woman. She's now my friend. More fun! And I think you know I did Eastwood when I was a young journalist; I share that story in Dream Reachers, the one out now. Night-night, kiddo. xo
August 08, 2010
Oops, almost forgot: When I can't feel the rhythm or pacing, I usually don't finish reading a book... It has to hold my interest and give me pleasure or what's the point of reading it? Hmmmm...
August 08, 2010
I heard that even for all the praise this thing started to get that people still came away un-wowed. I like that Shyamalan does try original ideas but the guy can be living proof that just because it hasn't been done before, theres probably a reason why. I'd be more surprised by his movies with twist endings when the twist doesn't come.
August 08, 2010
I know how they felt; this started out real strong and then it just couldn't keep it up. That is a good comment about Shymalan. But now, I think he should stick to his ideas after the disaster that is "The Last Airbender". I think he has a new one coming--"Devil" or something...
More The Happening reviews
review by . December 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****      In the past, M. Night Shyamalan has dealt with the ominous, the dark, the questionable, the humane, and even the beautiful. He has shocked me and with "Signs", I was most certainly riveted. But then came "The Village", which was a decent movie, but it was a big step down from "Signs". Then came "Lady in the Water", which I just could not find myself enjoying. M. Night Shyamalan tries to patch up his career with his first …
review by . May 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I heard this was M. Night Shyamalan's best film since The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series), so I wanted to see for myself.     I really liked this movie because it was suspenseful and moved along at a fast clip, but it's definitely not in the same league as The Sixth Sense. That was a gripping movie, filled with eerie, frightening happenings and great acting.    The opening scene of The Happening occurs in Central Park on a bustling, normal day. Two …
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
I enjoyed it, but this one didn't feel up to the standard of the first ones.
Quick Tip by . August 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
dumb dumb boring and dumb did i mention dumb?? lots of suspence leading up to NOTHING
review by . July 05, 2009
The Happening is Shymalan's first bad movie. But he still has yet to make a complete dud of a film. This one comes a bit close, but not quite. For one, the premise is much too good: Mother Earth strikes back, emitting from all of her greenery a toxin that is fatal for humans. Specifically, it causes them to kill themselves.From there, you can gather that the 90 minute runtime will be filled with confusion and hysteria as everyone tries to escape this strange Green Effect (by the way, that was the …
Quick Tip by . April 29, 2010
Movie Review Haiku: The Happening - Answers the question / "What's Happening?" with a curt / "Nothing worth watching."
review by . August 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
If you go into "The Happening" expecting an American style horror/disaster flick, you're bound to be disappointed. What you want from that kind of film are massive explosions, car crashes, tornadoes, zombies or monsters or ghosts, and big budget special effects, all tied together into some kind of coherent narrative with escalating action, leading to a climax in which (usually) the hero saves the world (or at least the local community) and achieves some kind of much needed reconciliation with his/her …
review by . July 08, 2009
M. Night Shayamalan got a huge career boost with The Sixth Sense.  When Unbreakable and Signs came out later, they were met with similar praise from fans.  People found his films to be something different and unique.  Shayamalan made his first mishap with The Village.  The idea of a big twist at the end of his movies didn't get old.  His twists just got weaker.  The Village was a movie that many found absorbing until those last few minutes when we learned of the twist.  …
review by . May 01, 2009
In our opening, people start committing suicide randomly,finding strangely violent cinematic ways to dispatch themselves - and they haven't even seen this film yet. Cut to Marky Mark, a high school teacher in Philly who is making his kids fail their SATs by filling their heads with nonsense about disappearing bees. Are the bees related? What do you think? When the news of this potential bio-terrorist attack hits the school, Marky decides for some reason to get on a train with his not-quite-clear-how-estanged …
Quick Tip by . November 23, 2009
Should've been called "The Crappening." Proves M. Night is a one-hit-wonder.
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You'd expect the end of the world to be no day in the park, but in M. Night Shyamalan'sThe Happening, a day in the park is where the end begins. One otherwise peaceful summer morning, New Yorkers strolling in Central Park come to a halt in unison, then begin killing themselves by any means at hand. At a high-rise construction site a few blocks over, it's raining bodies as workers step off girders into space. And all the while, the city is so quiet you can hear the gentle breeze in the trees. That breeze carries a neurotoxin, and what or who put it there (terrorists?) is a question raised periodically as the film unfolds. But the question that really matters is how and whether anybody in the Middle Atlantic states is going to stay alive.The Happeningis Shyamalan's best film sinceThe Sixth Sense, partly because he avoids the kind of egregious misjudgment that derailedThe VillageandLady in the Water, but mostly because the whole thing has been structured and imagined to keep faith with the point of view of regular, unheroic folks confronted with a mammoth crisis. Focal characters are a Philadelphia high-school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg, excellent), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and math-teacher colleague (John Leguizamo), and the latter’s little girl (Ashlyn Sanchez). Instinct says get out of the cities and move west; most of the film takes place in the delicately picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, with menace hovering somewhere in the haze. There are...
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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 29min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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