“There are forces at work beyond our understanding.” Forget the expectations and box office focus surrounding The Happening. This memorable thriller does what it's supposed to do: scare audiences and provoke thought. Written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan, willing audiences get another unique cinematic experience, though it feels like you’re breaking a social taboo when you see it. Shyamalan assembles his usual crew, including producer Sam Mercer, cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, and musical score composer James Newton Howard. Something is occurring in the northeastern United States, the setting for most of Shyamalan’s films. Audiences may know what the premise is already (it’s revealed early in the plot), so it’s all about ordinary people surviving these extraordinary events. It’s a thriller where things you don’t see as threats threaten people. The one-day plot timeline begins in Central Park in New York City at 8:33 a.m., and then continues with several disturbing events. Mark Wahlberg plays Philadelphia schoolteacher Elliot Moore who soon learns about the New York events and three key steps that explain how the premise occurs, but not what is causing it.Characters and media consider several theories throughout the plot, and the entire experience lingers in your mind well beyond exiting the theater. Elliot predictably assumes some leadership roles, but never really makes a big impact through heroics or his logical scientific thinking.Zooey Deschanel (Elf) plays Elliot’s wife, Alma. John Leguizamo plays Julian, Elliot’s teaching colleague. Julian has a daughter, Jess, played by rising star Ashlyn Sanchez who also had a memorable performance as Michael Pena’s daughter in Crash. Most of the troubling events render her speechless throughout the plot, including a disturbing scene on a house porch. The supporting cast includes familiar faces and veteran actors like Betty Buckley, who plays Mrs. Jones, and Frank Collison, the greenhouse owner who gave the Moores and Jess a ride.The pace is slow and deliberate with intense scenes peppered throughout the short 91-minute plot, which almost seems like an intentional act of mercy so audiences aren’t too traumatized. Many scenes could have been even scarier, but Shyamalan uses camera shots that hide faces and make the impact more psychological than graphic.
"A sinister cabal of superior writers."