The Happening
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Happening can be found here.

The Happening is based on an original screenplay by American director M. Night Shyamalan.

The Happening is a breakdown in individuals' mental state, beginning with mild confusion and memory loss, progressing to complete disorientation, mutism, and eventually compels individuals to commit suicide.

The happening is caused by the trees and plants in the Northeast section of the United States. In an apparent self defense mechanism triggered by years of pollution and global warming, plants release toxins that cause people to kill themselves. After a sufficient number of humans have been killed, the release of the toxin is stopped. After the epidemic, however, people are seen returning to their old ways of life and continuing to pollute, dismissing the epidemic as an inexplicable phenomenon. At the end of the film, plants in France develop the toxin in a secondary event closing with the presumption that more events are to follow unless humans heed the plants' warnings.

This is a popular myth in many circles, but science does not bear it out. What is known in such circles as the "Backster effect," named for the notion's orginator, Cleve Backster, is the idea that plant emotions can and have been measured via a lie detector, and that the plants tested showed the ability to react to human actions and even intents. This study was first conducted by Backster in 1966; it was subsequently refuted in 1975 and again in 1977, the later scientists citing the original experiment's poor design and lack of controls. With controls applied, no reactions were found in the plants tested. In actuality, plants lack a central nervous system and any sensory organs, meaning that not only would it be impossible for a plant to feel or respond to emotions, it would also be incapable of detecting the presence of humans or assessing the number of members in a group of humans. Nevertheless, belief in plant perception continues to enjoy popularity. For more information, see here.

No source for this quote has ever been found amongst Einstein's writings, and Einstein was not a botanist or biologist of any sort. This quote was likely invented in order to bring awareness to the issue, by attributing it to a man whose name has become synonymous with "genius." [Source here]

This is answered in the script more clearly. The plants affect people who give off "bad vibes." The first time the wind caught up to the group, they were unaffected. The girl in the beginning, the construction workers, the guy in France, and many other people were unaffected. It's probably because they gave off "good vibes." While only large groups were initially affected, the lone old woman at the end was poisoned because she was behaving in a hostile manner. Elliot and Alma were at peace with themselves, and therefore did not provoke an attack.

The mood ring was to show that the characters never gave off bad energy. That is why they remained unaffected. In actuality, of course, mood rings react only to temperature, which can fluctuate in response to many possible moods.

There's a small backstory stated in the "making of" feature on the DVD: She lost her husband in a war years earlier, so she decided to isolate herself from society, ultimately turning paranoid. She was in the film to foreshadow how Alma could turn out if she continued to behave as she had been doing (not showing her emotions, isolating herself from her husband, etc.).

Alma somewhat regretted her decision to marry Elliot, so Julian's line meant that she should only take his child if she was serious about the responsibility.

At the moment when Jullian asked the penny question, he was not affected by the toxin. The penny question is a math riddle. By posing a math riddle, Julian was hoping to counteract or negate the effect of the toxin by getting the vehicle's passengers to focus on something other than the fear of being infected. He was trying to take the girl's mind off all the dead bodies and keep her calm.

If you received a penny on Day 1, 2 pennies on Day 2, and 4 pennies on Day 3 etc., you would end up with over 10 million dollars in a month. Here are the amounts you'd receive on each day:

Day 1 $0.01 Day 2 $0.02 Day 3 $0.04 Day 4 $0.08 Day 5 $0.16 Day 6 $0.32 Day 7 $0.64 Day 8 $1.28 Day 9 $2.56 Day 10 $5.12 Day 11 $10.24 Day 12 $20.48 Day 13 $40.96 Day 14 $81.92 Day 15 $163.84 Day 16 $327.68 Day 17 $655.36 Day 18 $1,310.72 Day 19 $2,621.44 Day 20 $5,242.88 Day 21 $10,485.76 Day 22 $20,971.52 Day 23 $41,943.04 Day 24 $83,886.08 Day 25 $167,772.16 Day 26 $335,544.32 Day 27 $671,088.64 Day 28 $1,342,177.28 Day 29 $2,684,354.56 Day 30 $5,368,709.12 Day 31 $10,737,418.24.

The riddle is asking for the total amount that you would have received by the end of the month. So the exact answer is found after summing up these amounts. If the month has 30 days then the exact total sum would be $10,737,418.23, and if the month has 31 days then the exact total sum would be $21,474,836.47.

There is no twist ending, but if there was then the most likely scenario is that the "plants" are going to start again as it's implied in the end.

M. Night Shayamalan and several other filmmakers, when shooting the film, stated that it was supposed to be a throwback on the 1950s-'60s B-movies, like The Birds and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This can be seen on the "making of" feature on the DVD. Another reason why M. Night might have revealed the movie was supposed to be a B-movie the day before the movie came out is because he thought the audience would be smart enough to figure this out for themselves. While some did perceive it as a B-movie (see here) the problem lies in the majority, who expected it to be another horror/thriller.

He was sitting next to Alma on the train.

After the large scale disaster of 2006's Lady in the Water, The Happening isn't the worst received film on Shaymalan's resum, but it's certainly up there. Rotten Tomatoes scores it with a fairly low 19% approval rating from critics, and Metacritic averages out that the mean score from critics is 34/100, denoting a fairly negative feedback. Critical quotes:

"Of Fox's two summer creepshows, give the edge to The Happening, partly because M. Night Shyamalan really understands fear, partly because this time he's completely let himself go (hence the R rating), and partly because after Lady in the Water he had something to prove. "- Stephen King, 2008

"It almost dares you to roll your eyes or laugh at certain scenes that are supposed to be deadly serious. But, you know what, I appreciated this creatively offbeat, daring sci-fi mind-trip." - Richard Roeper, 2008

"This film is so bad that I feel compelled to make a spoiler-laden list of its most laughably terrible parts rather than review it. M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie, The Happening, is not merely bad. It is an astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined." - Christopher Orr, The New Republic, 2008

"If Shyamalan wanted to commit career suicide he couldn't have chosen a more likely vehicle than this laugh inducing 'thriller.'" - Richard Knight, Jr., Windy City Times

"...more scary than silly."- Efilmcritic, 2008

"A disaster, representing a number of negative firsts for Shyamalan."- Ryan Stewart, 2008

"You feel like you're not watching the end of the world but the end of a career."- Boston Globe, 2008

"Being risibly bad, The Happening is at least worth a laugh."- Rick Groen

"A movie that I find oddly touching. It is no doubt too thoughtful for the summer action season, but I appreciate the quietly realistic way Shyamalan finds to tell a story about the possible death of man."- Roger Ebert, 2008

"In short, this is a Shyamalan movie minus the bravado."- Justin Chang, 2008

"It's an entertaining movie."- Mick La Salle, 2008

"The Happening is a movie to walk out of, sleep through, or - best of all - not to bother with. "-James Berardinelli, 2008

"A disappointingly slight offering from a filmmaker that we know is capable of so much more. Shyamalan says that The Happening was his easiest film to shoot. Sadly, it shows."- Empire Magazine, 2008

"If what audiences are looking for is a thrill ride, or even a pervasive eeriness, The Happening's just not happening."- NPR, 2008

"An unapologetic B-movie. "- William Arnold, 2008

"...divertingly goofy thriller with an animistic bent, moments of shivery and twitchy suspense and a solid lead performance from Mark Wahlberg."- The New York Times, 2008

"Wahlberg turns in one of his worst performances ever"- Chicago Reader, 2008

"The Happening makes you wonder whether Mr. Shyamalan's own switch may have been flipped. How else to explain his film's befuddling infelicities, insistent banalities, shambling pace and pervasive ineptitude? "- Wall Street Journal, 2008


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