The Happening (2008)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Shyamalan’s last attempt.

I feel so bad for M. Night Shyamalan. He and I have a similar background in creativity, filmmaking, and a passion for the arts. He even made home movies when he was a kid, like me. People throw blame at him so much, but what they don’t realize is that it’s not really his fault. The best of the best of his films have been stories he’s had in his mind for decades…then producers came around and basically told him he had to keep making more movies, and guess what…they didn’t do so well. The Happening was the last movie he really did based off of his original horror mystery with a twist  design.

To give you an idea of what this movie is about, we are introduced to a pandemic that is affecting the eastern side of the country. What’s basically happening is that – something in the air is causing misfiring’s in the brain, causing people to ultimately kill themselves in very creative ways. School teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and a friend’s daughter, must escape this pandemic and figure out what it even is. Is it a terrorist attack of some kind, is it the nuclear reactors, or could it be something mysterious in nature? Most importantly, can these people escape what seems to be the end of the world?

Alright, I’ll admit, I liked this more than the general public when I first watched it. That may technically still be true, but I like it a lot less now, and I think I know why. Besides my bias of respecting Shyamalan’s work, it was clear to me that I liked the concept of The Happening. People uncontrollably killing themselves, and no one knows why, and whatever it is – is coming for them. The shots themselves of people committing suicide are very chilling, and I think well done for the most part – which is magnified by the very idea that it’s ultimately inescapable. The overall idea is fascinating – I love this concept, it’s just…everything other than the shots of people killing themselves absolutely sucks.

I have never been so put off by a performance of Mark Wahlberg’s. It’s partially his character writing, sure, but even so – I think he could have still acted better than he did. Most of the dialogue in this movie is so unintelligent. First we’re talking about hot dogs for no reason, and then we’re talking to plastic plants…I don’t have any idea what’s going on, or why in the world it was written this way. The only thing that I can come up with is…filler material. Great, you got all of these chilling images of suicide, and you got a basic concept, but as far as the actual story goes – you have absolutely nothing…not even an ending – because that’s anticlimactic, confusing, and most importantly, stupid.

Also, if you are going for the mystery side of things, great, wonderful! At least pick something a little harder to guess – we know you Mr. Shyamalan. We know you have weird, off-the-bat writing styles. Even if you weren’t writing it – when you have the choice between generic terrorists, generic nuclear plants, and lots of talk and imagery of plants and wind…who do you think you’re fooling? So, right off the bat, you know it has something to do with the plants – so every scene where they try to figure it out wastes your time and makes the characters look even dumber. So, yes, the movie feels a lot longer than it needs to be, because it takes forever to get to the point, and the point isn’t satisfying in the least bit.

The Good:

While a lot of people will tell you The Happening is one of the worst movies ever made, I disagree. Somewhere in the film lies a pretty interesting concept, along with chilling imagery and music that Shyamalan is famous for.

The Bad:

Seriously? Just watch the thing. All it had was a concept. The production wasn’t horrible, surprisingly enough, but the story was wrong, the characters had the worst dialogue, the casting was maybe the worst element out of everything, and it writes itself into it’s own demise.


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