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The Happening

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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It Just Ain't "Happening"

  • Jul 8, 2009
  • by
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.  It seemed a little weak for Shayamalan.  Even worse was that it just wasn't satisfying enough.  The Lady in the Water didn't exactly redeem him either.  When The Happening first came out, people were sure it would be Shayamalan's return to form.  Unfortunately it wasn't exactly the return to form we were looking for.  I will say one thing, though, at least M. Night can make an interesting trailer for a movie:

As the movie begins we are treated to two girls sitting in the park.  Suddenly one can't really remember what she's reading.  People then stand in shock and begin to walk backwards.  Then, suddenly, the girl kills herself.  We then see a bunch of construction workers throwing themselves off a roof.  For Shayamalan, who usually doesn't dwell too much in a lot of gore despite the genre he works in, this is quite gruesome to behold.  What exactly is happening?

Mark Wahlberg plays Elliot Moore.  A science teacher in school.  He's teaching when these events play out, and he's suddenly called out of the classroom.  As it turns out, no one is sure of what's going on.  Is it a terrorist attack?  No one really knows. 

One thing is for certain, whatever it is, it isn't good.  All people are really sure of is that it makes them kill themselves.  At first glance that does sound a little interesting to behold.  You almost want to believe that M. Night has gotten back to his roots.  In the event of trying to run away from... whatever it is that is happening, a man suggests that it could very well be the plants.  It's a little unknown how he comes to this conclusion but everyone buys it.  Whatever it is, it seems to be going after people in groups.

What we ultimately discover is that it is indeed the plants.  When the winds blow... that means the fauna are releasing toxins.  Upon first seeing this come by, my first reaction was that M. Night must be joking.  But he wasn't.  It's really the plants.  It's not really a twist so much as it is an important plot point.  And while I could go along for the ride, M. Night takes the premise far more serious than he needs to.  The characters begin fearing plants.  Yet they run through a field of fauna at some point.  Even more unbelievably sad was watching as our main characters try to outrun wind.  And while some of these antics are taking place, M. Night is taking it all so incredibly seriously. 

I began to wonder if the plants just sort of had a way of talking to each other.  If so, I imagine the following exchange took place at some point in the film without us knowing:

Tree: Hey, hey, I bet I could make that guy kill himself!
Bush: Oh, you're on man!  You're on!  You can't do it.
Tree: *rustles*
Grass: Oh?  Look, look!"
Guy: *Goes for a gun and shoots self in head*
Bush and Grass: OH! He totally did it! 

Actually, you almost do wish the exchange HAD taken place.  At least then the audience would've known that the movie was supposed to be silly.

It's a little sad, really.  M. Night is not exactly a bad director.  In terms of directing, he does that rather well.  It's perhaps his screenplays and the fact that he takes himself far too seriously.  M. Night is often criticized for his ego.  When he was told by executives that The Lady in the Water seemed a bit convoluted he took his work elsewhere thinking that perhaps those executives were dumb.  As it turns out, it was one of the biggest complaints fans and critics alike had.  It's no surprise that M. Night would go along with The Happening even with it's unbelievable premise.  And it isn't so much that it's unbelievable as it is that he just can't pull it off in a believable way.  And as I watched our characters try to outrun wind and find shelter throughout, I kept thinking that if the trees really wanted to get revenge on the humans for messing up the planet... why go through the trouble of releasing toxins to make them kill themselves?  Wouldn't it have been easier to release toxins to just... kill the humans? 

The worst part about the movie is that it is completely anti-climatic.  We are introduced to what is best described as a bizarre premise, but the movie never really gives us much to worry about.  The event just sort of... ends.  No explanation or anything.  Hardly anyone even speculates.  We sit here for 90 minutes only to learn... well... nothing.  A message in there about environmentalism?  Yeah, you definitely get that, and it certainly isn't preachy for those wondering.  It's just that we have to sit through something for nothing.  It's not amusing in the slightest.

M. Night has talent as a director, but it may be his screenwriting that is in jeopardy.  At times even The Happening isn't as bad as it actually sounds.  It's just that it's bizarre.  The actors don't exactly help.  Most of them don't exactly come to life.  That's not to say the acting is bad, it's just to say that it didn't seem like they were that interested in the movie either.  The dialog and whatnot isn't exactly stilted, but there is something that can be annoying about every character talking about the premise of plants without one character piping up and thinking that could be a little strange.  Everyone just seems to accept it right off hand without much thought or questioning.  I applaud M. Night for getting to the point, but again, it's the fact that for a movie that takes itself so seriously it never tries to make sure the audience can suspend their disbelief.

At the very least it's a short film.  But if you are looking for movies with enviornmental messages, there are plenty that are much better and others that don't try so ridiculously hard.

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July 08, 2009
I actually found myself liking the first part but losing interest in the 2nd half. I didn't really think the film was about nature but rather a portrayal of the things we cannot explain and man's arrogance to deny the fact that there are stuff that just can't be explained. Mayhap I should post my own review here...Nice work as always, buddy!!
July 08, 2009
His career arc has been very disappointing. Each movie has been weaker than the one before. I liked Signs though. Great review.
July 08, 2009
I totally agree with you as I always refer to this movie by its other name, The Crappening.  This is probably the worst movie ever made on the face of the planet and I agree that M. Night definitely has to much ego (this is apparent as he tried to act and direct in Lady in the Water).  If you are looking for a really good scary movie, I would check out Event Horizon. 
July 08, 2009
Yeah, this was just a really bad movie.  I usually try to find something good about every movie I see, but I just couldn't do it here.  M. Night thinks way too highly of himself.

I haven't seen Event Horizon in a really long time.  I remember watching it somewhere around ten years ago or so, but I can't really remember it too much.  I shall watch it again now!

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 . August 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Man Cannot Explain Every Phenomena, But He Tries To Explain Through Deductive Reasoning...
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 …
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 . 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.
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


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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