The HappeningWe've Sensed It. We've Seen The Signs. Now... It's Happening.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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."
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
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.
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.
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
This film has the strange ability, as all of Shyamalan's films do, to cast a wondrous spell that arrests and intrigues me.