Happening, The
The Happening
We've Sensed It. We've Seen The Signs. Now... It's Happening.

A whirl of fluffy white clouds against a bright blue sky - sounds idyllic doesn't it? This is how audiences are introduced to "The Happening," writer/director M. Night Shayamalan's latest thriller.

As the credits do their thing, those fluffy white clouds slowly stretch into smudgy gray streaks, and that blue sky you might often daydream about, has bruised to a deep violet - like a three-day-old black eye.

"A storm is approaching." "A change is in the air." Use whatever phrasing you please, but this opening sequence serves as a point to illustrate that something dark and ominous is happening to the world around us.

One day in Central Park, people become disoriented - their speech garbled. They begin walking backward. They start killing themselves. This erratic, unexplainable behavior spreads through Manhattan, and then the entire Northeast.

Construction workers take nosedives from rooftops. Policemen shoot themselves without a second's hesitation. These horrific deaths are blamed on a supposed "terrorist attack," but in reality no one has the faintest idea of what it is, and New York City is evacuated.

Cut to Philadelphia, where High school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is discussing a scientific article with his class. According to this New York Times article, honeybees are disappearing all over the country. Tens of millions of them, just vanishing, no bodies - no sign of them - they're just mysteriously gone.

Elliot engages his students, poking and prodding for possible theories as to why this might be happening. Disease? Could be a virus or infection, Elliot speculates. Pollution? Another likely hypothesis - maybe we're pumping so many toxins into the air that the bees are just keeling over?

One of Elliot's students, Dillon, raises his hand. In a matter of fact way of speaking, Dillon states, "Global Warming." And sure, Elliot acknowledges an increase in the Earth's temperature by a degree or two could easily have killed them - but where are the bodies?

The final assumption of Elliot and his class is that, it's an act of nature and we'll never fully understand it. This idea, of things beyond our understanding, is the lynchpin for the remainder of "The Happening."

As these strange events begin to spread throughout the Northeast, paranoia and fear follow close behind, eventually leading us back to Elliot Moore and his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel). They've decided to leave Philadelphia in the midst of these events to stay at a quiet country home with friend, Julian (John Leguizamo), and Julian's daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez).

While on a train to Harrisburg, Pa., we learn from passengers' cell phones that this chemical attack, or whatever it might be, has hit Philadelphia. Communication is lost with, well, everyone, and the train is forced to shut down. Julian, frantic to find his wife who is in New Jersey, entrusts his daughter to Elliot and Alma, and goes in search of her.

So now we have Elliot, Alma and Jess running through the backcountry fields of Pennsylvania, doing whatever they must to escape the attack as it spreads. The thing I find perhaps the most admirable about "The Happening" is the amount of thought put into it. It's almost, in a creepy kind of way, endearing.

Shyamalan's pace allows one to examine the events playing out on screen. I found myself sitting in the theater wondering how I might react to such a shocking wakeup call. Shyamalan puts these relatable, very real, characters into dreadful atmospheres - dark and ominous situations that are low on action but high on attentive suspense.

In many ways, "The Happening" serves as one of those 50s science fiction B-movies - fantastical disasters as allegories to the real dangers of the world. Shyamalan pushes the point across that we must have a respectful awe for nature, and the mysteries for which cannot be explained.

I know I'm in the minority for praising this film, as the majority of critics have ripped "The Happening" to shreds for atrocious acting, laughable dialogue and a poorly written script. I, however, don't see it that way at all. Don't get me wrong, "The Happening" is not a perfect film. It has its fair share of flaws and can't be held in the same regard as "The Sixth Sense" or "Signs," but for me it still does the trick.

This film has the strange ability, as all of Shyamalan's films do, to cast a wondrous spell that arrests and intrigues me.
Reviewed by: adam
13 Comment(s)
Shea said...
Yeah... I had pretty low expectations for this film. I wasnt a fan of Lady in the Water. The music, camera, acting and all was great I just didnt dig many of the story elements.

The Happening was good though. Some rough acting but it never really bothered me. It felt like an old Hitchcock movie. I was truly on edge throughout the movie. I really enjoyed myself. I love the camera and tensity created the most.

Two of the suicides I thought were lame. The Lion being rediculous and the lawn mower...eh. But everything else was for real.

I loved the old crazy lady in the cabin. I loved the JEEP death scenes. I loved the scene where Marky is trying to solve the problem with suicide gun shots and panicked loved ones shouting in his ear. I loved the opening of the movie too...jumping off the building was freaking intense.

Not one of his best but definitely not a step backwards buy any means.

I gave the movie an average rating. Like Shea said, I don't think it was his best, but it wasn't his worst, either. It didn't help him step forward in the business but, to me, it wasn't a step backwards either (as Shea also said). But even I'm in the minority with my average rating, so...

I usually don't harp on bad acting much, if at all, because I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to acting. However, even *I* thought the acting was something awful in this movie. I also agree that the lion death was too silly. I didn't mind the lawn mower one, though.
Adam said...
I just bought into the idea of the B-Movie campiness and overacting, so I let the 'horrible acting' slip away into purposeful cheese.

The lions, yeah - pretty crazy. I don't know what Shyamalan was getting at there - maybe some commentary on new technology being invasive and such, ha.

I'd say... what, 5th best? As much as I love "lady in the Water" - I suppose this is better than that, but I don't know if I like it more than "The Village"
Shea said...
I think Avatar will be a huge thing for him... if he pulls this off then he will be back on his game.

I just think people (not me) are tired of what they percieve as the same old M. NIght. in ever movie. You have to admit that he has similar tones and pace in all of his films. Which I love but if you dont... then you dont and you dont get anything different. Avatar will be his first step out into another world, another feel, and another genre. It will be huge for him.
Shea said...
1) Sixth Sense
2) Signs
3) Unbreakable
(all of these three AMAZING and very close to each other)
4) The Happening
5) The Village
6) Lady in the Water

It's tough between Village and Hap... very tough...

I think Village is beautiful on all levels including acting... and I love the love story... but Happening was intense for me to watch and I loved the little things.

Hmmm

Ok Ok... Village is better.
Nick said...
God, I can't *wait* for Avatar. I love that show. He better do it well. And I wonder if he's gonna try and do the entire story in one movie, or if he's gonna make it into a trilogy, with each movie based on each season (as there's only 3 seasons). Or if it's only gonna be loosely based on the show...

Also, I'm in that HUGE minority of people that actually enjoyed Lady in the Water. And I'd need to see Signs again before I gave it any real thought, as I haven't seen it in a while. Same for The Village. Though 'The Sixth Sense' is a masterpiece, and 'Unbreakable' was cool, though I'd have to see that one again, too. Really, I haven't seen all his movies in quite a while... but I've seen The Sixth Sense loads of times, as my dad used to watch it everytime it came on TV.
I've been looking forward to this one as the previews make it look really interesting. However, I've prepared myself to be disappointed. One thing I've found about Shyamalan's films (at least with Signs and The Village) is that the story starts out great, has the potential to scare the shit out of me like only John Carpenter can, and then....poof. The anxiety, fear, and suspense are blown when the thing we're supposed to fear appears on screen. It's what you can't see that's so much more terrifying. I'm hoping that with this film we don't have to worry about that. Despite that comments about the acting and a couple of hokey dying scenes, I'll probably see it anyways.
Adam said...
My favorite thing about him is his ability to think everday things that aren't frightening and make them terrifying. Like, the concept of a gunshot - not that scary anymore, we're pretty much desensitized to that... but some how he made the gun a scary weapon again..

Not to mention that backward walking... that was just creepy.

Avatar will be interesting - I think that will be his homecoming, just b/c no matter how good or bad it is - it will make a boatload of cash b/c of the brand.
Shea said...
Well Karen... in this one there is no THING that he reveals to scare you... so i think finally you might get what you want. This is one definitely had me on edge for most of the movie... which is good.

Adam... that is why I love him... but Hitchock was the master. He made us fear birds, showers, and our national monuments.
Nick said...
What I love about Shyamalan is that he's original in his constant retreading of ideas. Ghosts, aliens, superheroes, monsters, fairy tales, natural disasters... it's all been done before. But he does it in a very unique and imaginative way every time. You can't deny him that.
Never saw Sense so won't comment there...

1Signs
2The Village
3Lady in the Water
4The Happening
5Unbreakable

I loved all of these films though... Would purchase any one of them in a minute...

Def agree on the Hitchcock element sin this movie. Almost felt like a tribute. Loved the Lady in the House and the people off the buildings. I wasn't expecting it to be that intense...
Adam said...
Wow - never seen The Sixth Sense? And double-wow for liking Lady in the Water that much - haha. Fine with me though, I have a deep love for that movie too.

You should definitely see Sixth Sense Flanigan - it's his best work, as much as I love unbreakable and signs, I still think his first is his best.

Shea said...
Flanny... 6th Sense is priority! You guys will love it.