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The Happening

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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A grim tale about the end of man.

  • Dec 1, 2010
** 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 R rated feature, titled "The Happening". Now, "The Happening" is not a very convincing title; it could be about anything. All we know is that SOMETHING is happening, as the title certainly indicates. And something is indeed wrong, and it's not just the event itself. It's the film that Shyamalan has managed to create. While I do have some sympathy for "The Happening", it has too many flaws for me to truly praise it as I should. This is by all means a film that I should like: quiet, realistic, and potentially frightening. Almost as if it was ripped right out of a Stephen King novel, "The Happening" manages to have a truly scary premise all around, but fails to build upon it enough to conjure up any true fear. However, "The Happening" is full of all the interesting camera angles and spectacular music we've come to expect from an M. Night Shyamalan film. Is that enough? Not really. But unlike a lot of people, I cease to write "The Happening" off completely. The reason is because it's not entirely stupid, and it's a lot more thoughtful than most films these days. Like most Shyamalan films, it has a premise worth thinking about. And strangely, I find myself thinking about such a premise for days on end after my actual viewing. While I was not fascinated by the film, the idea is certainly intriguing. That's not to say that a remake should be made, but it's to say that Shyamalan has good ideas; he just has trouble extending them beyond a sentence or two. But let me tell you: "The Happening" was not half as bad to me as it was to others. That should not entail that I defend it, but it should tell you that I didn't hate it. What can I say: it was kind of entertaining and at times unintentionally funny. Bottom line: I didn't like it, but then again it's better than most have led me to think. I don't criticize it for the sake of criticism: I say it's not particularly good simply because in my image, it was not. But I have no problem with its unhappy existence.

In Central Park, people begin to kill themselves abruptly. Visually, it starts with a person repeating a phrase and then walking backwards and finally freezing. The two steps lead up to the final one, which is the urge for suicide. We then switch to a man named Elliot, who is a teacher at a Philadelphia (no surprise there) High School. He is teaching a class about the disappearance of one of the most important life forms: the bee. The Central Park incident comes to the attention of the school, and the building is closed down. Along with his wife, fellow teacher Julian, and Julien's daughter Jess, Elliot flees to safe haven. But as he soon discovers, nowhere is truly safe. The virus is airborne, and spreads rapidly. The question is why, and how. The genius of the premise is that the airborne neurotoxin is spread by the plants. The plants are angry at our race in general, and want to kill us all for our ignorance. The fact that the killer is in the air you breath makes the idea scary, but not so much the film itself. Shyamalan spends most of the time as a bystander rather than the puppeteer that he once was: putting almost no effort in advancing his already absurb characters and troubled plot. Shyamalan lets his heroes run from the airborne killer within the wind for quite some time, only stopping to introduce us to a psychotic old lady who despises humanity. The problem with "The Happening" is not the concept of running from the wind: but rather how the idea is excecuted. I am sympathetic for Shyamalan's aims and intentions, which are mostly good. However, I cannot call "The Happening" a truly entertaining experience. Sure, it was engaging for the most part, but never terribly interesting. The story is told with little craft, and the twists are made too obvious. Overall, it's not that bad, but it lacks both the emotional depth of "Signs" and the mystery of "The Sixth Sense". It's cheesy, it's obvious. Perhaps Shyamalan has fallen off the horse.

Mark Wahberg has shown us in the past that he can act, although "The Happening" gives us some of his worst work yet. I know that it was Shyamalan's intention to make every single actor somber and nearly emotionless, but all of that can come with a genuinely performance if it is done right. Wahlberg could have been good, but his dialogue is too silly and his actions too stupid. You can't sympathize for an actor's inconsistency when he sort of seems aware of it. Zooey Deschanel is also unexpectedly awful, sporting little emotion and also having plenty of stupid dialogue. Deschanel is a good actor, and I wonder what the hell she was thinking by taking the cash and being in this movie. She's not exactly fit for roles like this: she's more of a calm yet eccentric actress. John Leguizamo is the most decent of the actors (isn't he always), although he's given a short amount of screen-time compared to the other less capable actors. He's less excessively somber, and his character seems to fit him well for once. But everyone else: no. For once, Shyamalan himself does not make a physical appearance in one of his movies, but fear not: he gets a cameo after the form of a voice on a cell-phone. Whoopdie-doo!

Strangely enough, "The Happening" was a not-so-good movie that I found somewhat touching in some instances. There were scenes of decent emotion: emotion as in that post-apocalyptic tenderness that we all know and love. Half of it is short lived, while most of it fails to affect the human mind. So really, "The Happening" passes as both a thriller AND a drama. Shyamalan has always been one to sneak an extra genre into his thrillers-this is not the first time he's done this-but it has less of an emotional impact than...oh, let's say "Signs". Emotions are not thrown around in the air like an airborne neurotoxin, although the inclusion of them at all seems to help the film more than it hurts it. If there is indeed a way to forgive Shyamalan of his flaws, it's all in the visual style and music. Shyamalan is not a bad director: he is a bad screen-writer (most of the time). "The Happening" has great cinematography throughout, capturing more of the unique angles that Shyamalan never fails to deliver. I do, however, have a little bit of a problem with the gore. All of it looks fake and Shyamalan tries so hard to make this his most "shocking" movie yet. It is not shocking. Instead, the gory scenes are silly and always dumb. The music, courtesy of the always amazing James Newton Howard, is absolutely beautiful. It's hard to say that Shyamalan's movies aren't beautiful when such emotionally impacting tunes are playing in the background, but it's like a trance: you must snap out of it. "The Happening" is frequently silly and quite frankly, quite dumb. However, I think it is better than "Lady in the Water", which is not saying a lot in this case, but last time I checked it counted for something. "The Happening" is not a good movie, but I do not think it is a bad one either. There was stuff to think about, but then there was stuff to scoff as well. It's a "you either like it or you don't" situation, and you most likely will not enjoy the experience.

I will never say that Shyamalan is a poor director. He is not bad at all. He is, in fact, pretty decent. I think he's a pretty good guy outside of his film directing, although his films tend to have...problems. My two cents: he needs to take a break from writing, see how it impacts his films, and focus more on directing. His directorial style is great: but his writing is nearly awful. He ruined another awesome idea in "The Happening", and it had better not happen again. Regardless, I'm open to Shyamalan's films at all times. He may make a come-back, although every film of his has the potential to be that movie. I know that "The Happening" did. But alas, it was not good in my image, but then again it was not bad either. Others have called it tasteless and revolting, although I see potential in the project. It's almost as if Stephen King wrote a book to which it was based around, although it's entirely "original", as are all of M. Night Shyamalan's films. If you like the director, then see "The Happening". But I warn you in advance: you may not like it. It is not a movie I would recommend, but it wasn't as revolting as others say it is. Keep that in mind whether you like it or not.

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December 02, 2010
this was alright for me, it had good ambition though the storytelling was very uneven. Nice review! This will be featured in two days...
December 02, 2010
More The Happening reviews
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 . 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.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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