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The Happening

The Happening

Genders: Sci-Fi, Thriller

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez

Year: 2008
Run time: 1h 31min
IMDB score: 5.1
Updated: 4 years ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: The Happening

Genders: Sci-Fi, Thriller

Imdb Score: 5.1

Runtime: 1h 31min

Released: 13 Jun 2008

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez

Box Office: $64.4M

Company: 20th Century Fox


Imdb Link

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This is a joke, right?

5/10 Allow me to provide some background information on my relationship with the films of M. Night Shyamalan: I adored "The Sixth Sense" and still think of it as one of the best films of 1999 and one of the best supernatural thrillers in ages. "Unbreakable" was a fascinating take on the superhero genre. I loved parts of "Signs" to bits and consider the sequence in the basement towards the end of the film one of the finest examples of suspenseful build-up in recent film history. I even liked "The Village" and could easily dismiss "Lady in the Water" as a mere misfire. I was greatly anticipating "The Happening", especially as it seemed to be echoing one of my favorite guilty pleasures- the paranoid 70's sci-fi thriller.

Let's get one thing out of the way- "The Happening" is unbelievably, impossibly, ridiculously, hilariously, inconceivably bad. Normally I would refuse to rate any film that had any good scenes or that was well-directed less than four out of ten, but "The Happening" has to have one of the worst scripts among recent big-budget Hollywood films. It's absolutely shocking how retarded the logic behind this is and how poor so much of the dialogue is. This script began as "The Green Effect", a tremendously poor (trust me, I read parts of it) script by Shyamalan that was soundly rejected and eventually reworked into "The Happening". Having seen the critical reaction to "The Happening" prior to going into the film I found myself pleasantly surprised by basically the first thirty, forty minutes of the film. It was nothing special but it had something going for it, Shyamalan's direction was top-notch, and Wahlberg was playing the sort of goofy science teacher I'd loved (and loved to hate on occasion) in high school.

Then the descent began. The bulk of this film is some of the most hilariously awful crap produced by a talented filmmaker since Schaffner's "Sphinx". Shyamalan, who was using close-ups and steadicam shots to frankly brilliant effect early on, begins to use the same shots to comical effect. There is one painfully, painfully long close-up of Mark Wahlberg pleading for time to think and then calling for his group to 'keep ahead of the wind' that is up there with Nicolas Cage in "The Wicker Man" in terms of hilariously awful acting. That scene may very well be the turning point in the film, with Wahlberg's acting becoming more ridiculous by the second, culminating in a performance that essentially wipes from memory all his tremendous recent achievements as an actor. I don't blame Wahlberg for this, I blame Shyamalan. Wahlberg claims Shyamalan tried to force him into real paranoia so his performance would work better. What happens here (no pun intended) is that Wahlberg ends up looking amazingly uncomfortable for the last hour of this thing and struggles to deliver any reasonable line deliveries.

Okay, I do have to credit Zooey Deschanel for making this movie watchable. Besides being amazingly, ridiculously gorgeous she is a fine actress and creates a sympathetic character (and a fairly well-drawn one at that- one of the few pros in Shyamalan's script). There's also the score: oh my it's gorgeous. Seriously, ignore this film and just buy the score CD by James Newton Howard- it's brilliant.

"The Happening" starts out well but ends up being an absolute embarrassment. I was prepared for a mediocre offering- perhaps a misguided effort such as "Lady in the Water". I was not expecting a disaster on the level of "The Happening". Its last forty minutes and especially its last ten minutes or so are among the worst I have seen in a long time.

Have you ever wondered if it was possible for a film to go from enjoyable to absolutely horrendous in the space of ten or fifteen minutes? "The Happening" is proof that it can, pardon the (intentional) pun, happen.


4 years ago

"Awful" doesn't cover it.

1/10 I haven't seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since "Signs", although I've heard each was worse than the previous ones. Strangely, this gave me hope that "The Happening" would be a turning point for the director that had won so much acclaim with "Sixth Sense".

Sadly, this isn't the case. "The Happening" is easily the worst movie I have ever seen in a theater, and is a strong contender for the worst I've seen altogether. I've never even written an IMDb review before, but felt compelled to write one for this movie.

1) The acting is horrible. Sometimes you go to a movie and the cast has one lousy actor in it. This was the opposite. The entire cast is uniformly bad, with the possible exception of a construction worker in the beginning watching his buddies plummet to their deaths. These performances are a hallmark of poor direction. I know that Wahlberg, Deschanel, and Leguizamo can actually turn in good work under the right director.

2) Almost no one seems to react to what's going on around them in a realistic way. Only one person (practically an extra) ever really freaks out. Everyone else just kind of bumbles along until the wind catches up to them.

3) The premise is ridiculous. Supposedly, the plants are tired of us polluting the environment and mowing the grass, so they decide to start releasing toxins that cause humans to go insane and kill themselves. There are a few massive problems with this.

First, the movie presents evolution as something that occurs within the lifetimes of organisms, when it actually takes many thousands of generations. Trees haven't had any time at all to evolve that kind of defense mechanism, and grass isn't particularly concerned about being mowed. Otherwise, it would have evolved a toxin to kill off grazing animals thousands of years ago.

Second, the movie makes it seem as if the plants can somehow consciously communicate with each other. Although plants do indeed send out chemical signals, these signals are not under any kind of conscious control.

Third, the movie mixes up plant defenses with ecological phenomena such as algae blooms. Algae blooms occur when a variety of factors all converge to provide an ideal environment for overgrowth of algae. The algae population cannot sustain such large levels and eventually the excess dies off. Plant chemical defenses are not remotely similar. If a species of plants evolves a defense mechanism, all future descendants will have it, and it will continue working indefinitely. If such a mechanism appeared in grass, it would eventually make its way across the country. The effect wouldn't magically stop working just in time to save the protagonists of the story.

Finally, it doesn't make much sense for a "toxin" to cause suicides. That kind of behavioral alteration is usually seen in the reproductive cycles of parasites that infect their hosts' nervous systems. Plant defenses are either poisons (such as nicotine) or chemical signals that attract predators to hunt the plant's attackers.

4) By the way, the "antagonists" are plants. Although this could have been made to work somewhat like "Andromeda Strain", Shyamalan decided to add a bunch of foreboding shots of plant-life. It isn't easy to make trees and grass look evil, so wind kicked up each time people are about to die. The toxin would accumulate more in still air, so you'd be better off waiting for the wind to blow past you. Leave it to a science teacher to miss this point and make sure everyone "stays ahead of the wind".

5) The score is ham-fisted and overbearing.

6) So is the dialog.

7) There is no "twist". A random character we never care about reveals the cause of the mass suicides sometime in the middle of the movie, and he's exactly right. I was hoping the real cause would be the creepy lady at the end who hates the outside world, but alas no; she becomes a victim just like everyone else.

8) In a couple of scenes (at the very beginning and very end), we see one person who is not apparently affected by the "toxin". We never find out what happens to them, nor why they aren't affected. In reality, there would certainly be more people not affected, and the people who were would likely be affected in different ways. Psychoactive substances never affect everyone the same way.

9) Just before the final scene, we see Wahlberg, et al. back home three months after the attack. No one appears to have suffered any kind of psychological trauma. The little girl, whose parents are both dead, is going off to school, and somehow the Northeast is repopulated. I'd be very curious to know what they did with all those dead bodies. More likely, massive numbers of people who were not directly affected by the plants would have committed suicide due to depression. No one in their right minds would move back to the region, so the only living people in that part of the country would be clean up crews wearing Hazmat suits.

10) In the very beginning scene, the one person not affected by the toxin begins describing what she sees, but the camera never shows us. "Are those people clawing at themselves?" Where?! Sorry, you'll never see it. It's like watching a Bob Newhart phone conversation. In spite of the character's comment, you never see any of the victims clawing at themselves. Everyone who falls prey to the plant toxin freezes, then quietly (and expediently) commits suicide. It's a continuity error that occurs two minutes into the movie.

There are so many more things wrong with this film I don't think it's possible to list them all. The shortest list of the movie's flaws is, sadly, the movie itself. Hopefully this review will prevent you from seeing it, or at least prepare you for the inevitable disappointment.

4 years ago

Believe it...

2/10 I hate this. I want to tell you guys that this was Shyamalan's comeback and that this film is just as terrifying as you've been promised. But, I cannot.

The film starts off actually quite well. Minus some less than stellar acting (in fact, its horrible) and some just as bad dialogue, I really thought that maybe this film could pull it off. Disturbing death scenes ensue.

Then, bring in Mark Wahlberg. What happened to this guy? Nominated for an Oscar for his turn in The Departed, Wahlberg seems like a safe bet, but in actuality, he's playing a role that just isn't made for him. This role was made for someone nicer. Walhberg has been typecast time and time again as the angry and bad-ass guy, and now I see why. He's good at that and god awful at being nice.

No one else is particularly good either. Zoey Deschanel disappoints, John Leguizamo (Everyone in this movie has a name that's difficult to spell), and all of the extras are just as bad. There is not a single moment of good acting in this movie.

And all of that is because of how rushed this film feels. This is one of those movies that it seriously felt like the director was working on a very limited budget and then took the first take for every actor, none of them had a chance to get into their roles (or so I hope).

It's obvious who will get all of the blame for this (M. Night Shyamalan) and it's really too bad. I can't say that the plot is necessarily bad, it isn't, and with maybe one more draft the script would've been good. The faults of this film all land on Night's shoulders though. I hate to say it because I am very much not a hater of his (I love The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs) but I'm forced to say I hate this movie. Not so much for how bad it actually is (it's very bad) but because I really had faith in the director. The trailers almost felt promising and Shyamalan (am I even spelling this right?) promised me that I'd walk out shaking. Instead, I was shaking my head in disappointment.

One thing I'd like to add on though, I can tell that they were going for a Hitchcock vibe and the best way I feel that I can describe this is "a very bad version of The Birds." That is all.

4 years ago

A terrible screenplay and poorly acted

1/10 "The Happening", which was released here in France today is a terrible screenplay and poorly acted. The writer/director failed to make a complete film, which employs any semblance of cinematic language.

Normally well-written, taut and engaging screenplays, like good editing should be invisible. They should fit seamlessly into the film-making process, but unfortunately for "The Happening", the writing, construction of drama and dialogue are so bad that the awful screenplay is apparent from the very first scene. The introduction of the main conflict is visually well done, but the writers never bother to move the story past its main conflict, thus making the film flat line dramatically very early on. Essentially nothing ever happens except the main characters totally unbelievable reactions to "The Happening" (i.e. the main conflict).

We, the audience are not emotionally attached to the characters because the screenplay gives us no reason to be. The film's sub-conflicts are basically non-existent and the character conflicts (emotional relationships) are contrived and hollow. The screenplay provides no emotional outlet or connection at all. Simply said this is a screenplay that should have been better vetted for emotional connection between the audience and characters on screen. We don't care about what's 'Happening' because the people to whom it is 'Happening' mean nothing to us. Someone should provide the screenwriter with a copy of Aristotle's "Poetics".

The dialogue is over the top, simplistic, explicit and begs the question - does anyone really talk like that? Line after line the screenplay falls further and further apart. The characters tell us what we can already see. Therefore the screenplay doesn't trust that the cinematic language of images is doing its job. The beauty of cinema is that with moving pictures we can say thousands upon thousands of words with each frame and never actually employ dialogue. This screenplay obviously does not respect that logic and in many ways flies right in the face of it. The film would be a lot better if the characters just simply reacted to the events unfolding around them.

The acting is unwatchable. No one in this film gives a good performance. The acting, similar to the screenplay is devoid of emotion. No one is reacting like a real person. Each character seems to be emotionally empty. They don't seem nervous that millions of people are dying, they're not hysterical (which doesn't not mean they should yelling and screaming) or even realistic. They at no time in the film seem desperate with the desire and hope to live. At times they try to appear upset, but it is so shallow that the viewer is left flat. Each actor delivers their lines without any regard or reaction to the actor in front of them. It is so bad that it makes one wonder whether or not the actors were actually on set together or just acting with stand-ins.

The sub-text of the film, which is meant to lead us to the theme – mankind is destroying the planet, is blatant and lacks finesse. Pretty quickly into the first act we know that the plants are taking their revenge (I wish I was making this up, but this really is the plot of the film). The screenplay, dialogue and acting do nothing to merit the ending in which a professor on television is yelling about 'how we humanity are guilty for the recent horrors and need to pay better attention to our physical environment.' The films is just waving its fists and again telling us what to think rather than earning our trust. It tells us what its about. Basically the film underestimates us every step of the way.

The film never ventures into any kind of serious depth. It stays on the most basic, one-dimensional level. Plants are killing us - run away.

Blame for this film's failures should be squarely laid upon the director and producers. The director is guilty of writing and directing a very bad and unbelievable film. The producers are responsible for allowing the director to get away with this. Someone on the creative team and/or on the production side should have sounded an alarm when they read the screenplay. When the screenplay got into production one of the producers should have watched the rushes and pulled the director aside and said something.

"The Happening" is a failure on the most basic and important of cinematic levels. It does nothing to win, earn and deserve the audience's emotional and intellectual trust. It doesn't employ image as its main storytelling tool. It just tries to be clever, but is actually quite silly.

I for one don't care who the writer or director is, they must listen to their production and creative team. Film-making is a collaborative experience, but in the case of this film it is clear that no one bothered to be honest with Mr. Shyamalan.

4 years ago

It might be cliché, but it has to be said: The Happening is not happening.

4/10 Shyamalan has proved to us earlier that he can be as good as the best with masterpieces of cinema with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Yet, since then, he has declined steadily. Signs and Village were good movies, but with Lady in the Water and now The Happening, he has touched a level of incompetence that could never have been expected of him.

The Happening is about a pandemic that is gripping north-eastern USA. It starts with a stunning sequence of events that show people succumb to an unspecified threat – the brilliance of this opening repeated only once more for a five-minute sequence towards the end of the movie. Unfortunately, Shyamalan's writing is a big let-down for the rest. As the focus moves from metropolitans to towns and from crowds to smaller groups, the sense of fear is lost – the biggest sin a horror movie can commit. In the oft repeated criticism for its director, this movie would have been best served as a half-hour episode of Twilight Zone to make it really work.

And to add woe, the actors do not do much to better the experience – Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are grossly miscast as the protagonists. Any of his previous leading men (Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Giamatti) can be imagined to have done a better job for the Science teacher that Wahlberg plays. The camera scrutinizes the performance to a degree that requires an actor with strength in emotions – Wahlberg instead brings a physical presence that the role does not need. Zooey, on the other hand, struts around like in a Disney movie, not for once threatened by the pandemonium.

This time, though Shyamalan humbles his vanity – you don't see him on screen. He now should swallow his pride and leave the writing to the writers. Armed with a better script, we can still expect Shyamalan to make his future movies worth waiting for. For now it is only the memory of the opening sequence, which can be proclaimed as mind-numbing greatness, which is really worth taking away from this movie.

4 years ago