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Movie Review: The Happening

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It's not beyond the realm of comprehension, of course, that the plants would fight back, that after centuries of abuse by man, vegetation would simply turn its back on us. For example: Just try to buy a tomato this week.

But where Night Shyamalan goes wrong with The Happening is by purporting that it would somehow be a coordinated effort by all plant life, and that its revenge against mankind would involve a deadly airborne toxin emanating from plants that causes anyone it infects to kill themselves in a brutal fashion.

That's just silly.

And unfortunately for Shyamalan, that's all he's got.

The Happening never begins to make more sense than it does when a woman stabs herself in the neck in the film's opening scene or when construction workers leap to their deaths from the tops of buildings in the next scene. We know that something's happening and that our heroes, Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, will probably outrun it. Anything else – what the real cause is, why it starts happening, etc. – is not really Shyamalan's concern.

Once upon a time, this guy made effective thrillers. If you like Signs, you could argue he made three straight effective thrillers to that point, following The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. If that's your argument, the scales are now balanced: The Happening is the third bad Shyamalan movie in a row, succeeding The Village and Lady in the Water, and this is the worst of the three.

The acting is uniformly bad. Compare this with last year's The Mist, which, while not a great movie, at least had the proper amount of panic in each scene. The characters in that film didn't know what to do and their tension was palpable. That isn't the case in this rather nonchalant horror flick, which never heightens the anxiety, is paced poorly, and to make matters worse, throws in comic relief where it isn't needed or even wanted.

Beyond that, the idea is not fully formed and the resolution is entirely too weak. There should be more of a reason to watch Wahlberg and Deschanel amble through the Pennsylvania countryside with no clear destination in mind. Perhaps Shyamalan should've made that point to himself while writing the script, which starts with the concept of man vs. nature – one of the five basic conflicts of dramatic storytelling – and never goes any further.

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  • ILoz Zoc

    I think the problem with Shyamalan at this stage is his incessant need to direct his own derivative work. Ego plays an immense part here. He controls, not directs, creating an emotionally trivialized story more staged and displayed than unfolding and engrossing.

  • Matt Paprocki

    Did you just spoil the movies secret for everybody by giving away the plant plot point which has never been mentioned in any of the trailers?

  • Glen Boyd

    I think that would be a yes Matt. Although he doesn’t spoil the movie entirely, and I for one was a bit curious as to exactly what “the Happening” actually was. At least now I know its not a Left Behind sort of movie.


  • Pete

    Spoiling this movie would be good for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Perhaps they will simply save their money and not see a movie that sells itself as horror and absolutely doesn’t deliver. At what point were we supposed to be scared?

  • Courtney

    There was no plot,it was interesting untill it ended,because it just ended there was no resoulution or even a cliff hanger.nothing.

  • Jenny

    this movie sucked.

  • tom

    This movie made no sense and was rediculous. Many in the theatre left befor the ending and those that stayed regretted doing so. It was neither suspensful or scary and i regret seeing it.

  • Luke

    Watched it a few weeks ago now… everyone in the cinema was watchin the unbelieveably rubbish film when it couldnt get any more worse… the filming crew (sound) droped down the microphone too far and at the top of the screen you could see the overhead microphone with red tape on it… Check it next time!…
    Doesnt show you how most people die…
    Not scary…
    Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel and the little girl seem to SURVIVE?!?!?! because there in a small group?
    An old woman dies and she was on her OWN!!!
    Awful film dont waste your money and time

    everyone hated it and when the film finished people infront of us and me and some friends got up and the same response was said everywhere… “well that was Sh*t

  • Colin Boyd

    Luke –

    Regarding your comments about the micrphone being visible, that’s an issue with your theater projectionist. He or she simply didn’t frame the film correctly. Any movie would have that gaffe under the same circumstances, because boom mics are generally only a few feet overhead.

    Now, if you saw crew members in the background shaking their heads at how asinine the movie was, that’d be different. And understandable.

  • jj

    i think it was really entertaining
    Not a tense drama/thriller or anything but it was a good dark comedy

  • Chase

    HAHAHA.. Colin, you just nailed it with this article and that comment you posted is hilarious.. I thought The Village was a good movie(along with The 6th Sense and Unbreakable) if you only watch it once.. This movie on the other hand is just fucking pointless.. The acting was unexpectedly terrible, considering Wahlberg and Deschanel were in it.. I want the 2 hours of my life that i just wasted back..