Please don’t make me spend any more than a paragraph explaining the plot of this wretched film – let me be as brief as possible and get on with slagging The Happening off.
People are killing themselves in Central Park, and not just a few but in their dozens and eventually hundreds. People flee the city, but the problem is growing and soon people are killing themselves across most of the North East of America. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel run away with John Leguizamo and his daughter, but things are increasingly bad out in the countryside. There is no refuge, and it’s pretty easy to figure out why because the root-cause (little insider there) is telegraphed by M. Night from about the fifth minute, as is the case with all his films. You could guess the supposedly awesome ending of Sixth Sense from the trailer, so I never really got his reputation for “surprise” endings.
I sincerely hope that The Happening signals the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a big-budget Hollywood film-maker because he really needs to be stopped. In this era of financial ruin, we cannot have men like him running around signing cheques with a stamp and turning out drivel like this. And his name is still plastered all over any promotional material despite the fact his last three films have been so appalling that most people haven’t seen them. “From the Director of Sixth Sense” can surely only be trotted out for so long before people realise that it was a decade ago and there has been no filling in the sandwich of years since then. It’s also bad because director’s need to be given creative licence and freedom from studio backseat direction, and people like him are making it more likely that studios will never allow directors total control the way we had before Cimino ruined everything with Heaven’s Gate.
What the Hell is this film meant to be anyway? Did Shayamalan write the script in one continuous sitting without bothering to re-read it? Was he involved in the casting process at all, or did he just pull people’s names out of a hat? It is beyond any logical analysis to try to even begin to imagine how this abomination was created. Zooey Deschanel was presumably cast just because she’s hot and has big, gooey eyes. She can’t act, and neither can Mark Wahlberg who is utterly unconvincing as a science teacher.
There is presumably meant to be some drama somewhere, but at every turn it’s foiled. The director’s obsession with extreme close-ups of quivering faces and appalling dialogue delivered as if it’s awesome and epic is just laughable. The weirdest cameo is Alan Ruck – who I will only ever know as Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – telling a room full of people “We believe an event may be Happening”.
What the fuck does that mean? Is that a real line? An “event”? What, like a party or something? The new series of Big Brother? Worse still, people react to this news as if it’s in any way meaningful. An event may be happening. Jesus wept.
There are nonsensical plot turns such as Leguizamo abandoning his daughter to the care of Wahlberg just because he feels the urge to run off and find his wife. What parent would ever do that? Seriously let’s just think about it for a moment – would ANY parent worth their salt even consider leaving their child in what may for all intents and purposes be the apocalypse to run off with a bunch of strangers and try to find their partner in an against-all-odds cross-country dash?
There are also some hilarious moments that are clearly meant to be shocking. A woman has a movie on her mobile phone of a man feeding himself to the Lion’s at the zoo which has to be seen to be believed. There is also a woman chatting to her daughter on her mobile when the girl commits suicide by throwing herself out the window – the woman drops the phone and Wahlberg grabs it up announcing “I can hear wind coming from outside”. Where the fuck else does wind come from?
There are also lines that once again display Shyamalan’s total lack of faith in his audience – if you thought ‘Lady in the Water’ was a little heavy on exposition, get ready for more of the same. In fact, every character feels the need to announce the reason behind their actions just so we’re left without any thinking. At one point Wahlberg asks a couple who are giving them a lift “do you have any binoculars?” to be told “yes, they’re in the trunk behind you, we have them there from when we were spying on the neighbours”. Who speaks like that? “I’m going to get some food because I’m hungry, and it’s the time of day when I eat”.
The DVD I rented was advertised as “featuring extended footage too gruesome for theatres!” - that easily covers most of the film’s runtime.
Appalling, unforgivable and shockingly ill-conceived from start to finish - only watch this film ironically, and prepare to be angered anyway.
Indian-born, American-raised writer and director, whose forte is taking cliched fantasy stories and reinventing them with low-key treatment, usually with a child at the heart of them. After gentle comedy Wide Awake, he hit the big time with supernatural drama The Sixth Sense. Superhero tale Unbreakable was also successful, as was the religious alien invasion parable Signs. Shyamalan's mystery drama The Village was seen as ploughing the same furrow for too long by some, and his fantasies Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (which he didn't conceive the plot for) were met with near-universal derision. On a lower budget, he made The Visit, which was cautiously received as a partial return to form, and Split, which was his biggest hit in some time, along with its sequel Glass, a thoughtful if eccentric take on superheroes. He also co-wrote Stuart Little.