The Happening (2008)
I’m really going to try to be nice about this (at least, nicer than I was on my first attempt).
I’m not sure what happened to the promising young director who brought us The Sixth Sense a few years ago, but surely this atrocity wasn’t really directed by the same guy.
I mean, I’d heard that The Happening was bad, but I didn’t expect this. I’ve always been a fan of M. Night. I mean, I even liked The Lady in the Water, a movie that was pretty much universally hated. So, I thought, maybe when I saw the also-universally-hated The Happening, I’d like it too!
WRONG. The Happening is a terrible movie. This is bad filmmaking on a massive scale. I’m really not sure how somebody didn’t step in at somepoint and say “You know what, Night? What you’re doing right now… not so good.” I don’t know how someone at the studio read this script and greenlighted the movie. I don’t know how the actors were given the script and decided that this was something they’d want to be a part of. I don’t know how those same actors — who are all usually really good — delivered their lines in such an unemotional way (presumably under Night’s direction) without raising a fuss about it.
When you first hear the premise of the movie, it seems intriguing: Some unexplained phenomenon is causing people to off themselves en masse. But once you find out what’s causing this “event” (SPOILER: It’s the fucking trees, exacting their revenge on us for not recycling enough), it’s so stupid and idiotic that you think that it can’t possibly be true. You think — you hope — that maybe Shyamalan is giving us this information (which we hear pretty early on in the film) to throw us off and that he’s going to give us the REAL reason behind what’s happening in one of his signature twist endings.
No such luck. It really is that stupid.
I’d go ahead and make fun of the terrible acting in the movie but it’s almost not worth it. Any actor would have a hard time believably uttering some of the dreadful dialog that Shyamalan fills their mouths with. I mean, this is a cast — Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo — that I’d normally get a geek boner for, but they’re all so remarkably bad that you can’t really blame anyone but the director (or their agents, for getting them involved in this shitty script in the first place).
You’d think somebody, at some point, would’ve stepped in and said, “Ya know, Night, what you’re doing right here… not working.”
The Happening is sadly, laughably bad. It’s the kind of movie that, had it been made 50 years ago, could’ve made a contribution as one of my favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Because the only way to be entertained by this movie, in any way, is by making fun of it*.
“A film by M. Night Shyamalan.” Those words used to mean something to me. They used to be a reason to get my butt in the movie theater seat. These days, they still mean something, but they serve as words of warning. Sorry, Night, but you’ve squandered all of the love that you gained with your other films. Next time — if there is a next time — you’re going to have to knock it out of the park to win us back.
*Although, you could also create a pretty effective drinking game with it too. Take a shot every time someone says the word “happening.” You’ll be blitzed in a jiffy.