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Allow me to provide some background information on my relationship with
the films of M. Night Shyamalan: I adored "The Sixth Sense" and still
think of it as one of the best films of 1999 and one of the best
supernatural thrillers in ages. "Unbreakable" was a fascinating take on
the superhero genre. I loved parts of "Signs" to bits and consider the
sequence in the basement towards the end of the film one of the finest
examples of suspenseful build-up in recent film history. I even liked
"The Village" and could easily dismiss "Lady in the Water" as a mere
misfire. I was greatly anticipating "The Happening", especially as it
seemed to be echoing one of my favorite guilty pleasures- the paranoid
70's sci-fi thriller.
Let's get one thing out of the way- "The Happening" is unbelievably, impossibly, ridiculously, hilariously, inconceivably bad. Normally I would refuse to rate any film that had any good scenes or that was well-directed less than four out of ten, but "The Happening" has to have one of the worst scripts among recent big-budget Hollywood films. It's absolutely shocking how retarded the logic behind this is and how poor so much of the dialogue is. This script began as "The Green Effect", a tremendously poor (trust me, I read parts of it) script by Shyamalan that was soundly rejected and eventually reworked into "The Happening". Having seen the critical reaction to "The Happening" prior to going into the film I found myself pleasantly surprised by basically the first thirty, forty minutes of the film. It was nothing special but it had something going for it, Shyamalan's direction was top-notch, and Wahlberg was playing the sort of goofy science teacher I'd loved (and loved to hate on occasion) in high school.
Then the descent began. The bulk of this film is some of the most hilariously awful crap produced by a talented filmmaker since Schaffner's "Sphinx". Shyamalan, who was using close-ups and steadicam shots to frankly brilliant effect early on, begins to use the same shots to comical effect. There is one painfully, painfully long close-up of Mark Wahlberg pleading for time to think and then calling for his group to 'keep ahead of the wind' that is up there with Nicolas Cage in "The Wicker Man" in terms of hilariously awful acting. That scene may very well be the turning point in the film, with Wahlberg's acting becoming more ridiculous by the second, culminating in a performance that essentially wipes from memory all his tremendous recent achievements as an actor. I don't blame Wahlberg for this, I blame Shyamalan. Wahlberg claims Shyamalan tried to force him into real paranoia so his performance would work better. What happens here (no pun intended) is that Wahlberg ends up looking amazingly uncomfortable for the last hour of this thing and struggles to deliver any reasonable line deliveries.
Okay, I do have to credit Zooey Deschanel for making this movie watchable. Besides being amazingly, ridiculously gorgeous she is a fine actress and creates a sympathetic character (and a fairly well-drawn one at that- one of the few pros in Shyamalan's script). There's also the score: oh my it's gorgeous. Seriously, ignore this film and just buy the score CD by James Newton Howard- it's brilliant.
"The Happening" starts out well but ends up being an absolute embarrassment. I was prepared for a mediocre offering- perhaps a misguided effort such as "Lady in the Water". I was not expecting a disaster on the level of "The Happening". Its last forty minutes and especially its last ten minutes or so are among the worst I have seen in a long time.
Have you ever wondered if it was possible for a film to go from enjoyable to absolutely horrendous in the space of ten or fifteen minutes? "The Happening" is proof that it can, pardon the (intentional) pun, happen.
I hate this. I want to tell you guys that this was Shyamalan's comeback
and that this film is just as terrifying as you've been promised. But,
The film starts off actually quite well. Minus some less than stellar acting (in fact, its horrible) and some just as bad dialogue, I really thought that maybe this film could pull it off. Disturbing death scenes ensue.
Then, bring in Mark Wahlberg. What happened to this guy? Nominated for an Oscar for his turn in The Departed, Wahlberg seems like a safe bet, but in actuality, he's playing a role that just isn't made for him. This role was made for someone nicer. Walhberg has been typecast time and time again as the angry and bad-ass guy, and now I see why. He's good at that and god awful at being nice.
No one else is particularly good either. Zoey Deschanel disappoints, John Leguizamo (Everyone in this movie has a name that's difficult to spell), and all of the extras are just as bad. There is not a single moment of good acting in this movie.
And all of that is because of how rushed this film feels. This is one of those movies that it seriously felt like the director was working on a very limited budget and then took the first take for every actor, none of them had a chance to get into their roles (or so I hope).
It's obvious who will get all of the blame for this (M. Night Shyamalan) and it's really too bad. I can't say that the plot is necessarily bad, it isn't, and with maybe one more draft the script would've been good. The faults of this film all land on Night's shoulders though. I hate to say it because I am very much not a hater of his (I love The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs) but I'm forced to say I hate this movie. Not so much for how bad it actually is (it's very bad) but because I really had faith in the director. The trailers almost felt promising and Shyamalan (am I even spelling this right?) promised me that I'd walk out shaking. Instead, I was shaking my head in disappointment.
One thing I'd like to add on though, I can tell that they were going for a Hitchcock vibe and the best way I feel that I can describe this is "a very bad version of The Birds." That is all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Happening", which was released here in France today is a terrible
screenplay and poorly acted. The writer/director failed to make a
complete film, which employs any semblance of cinematic language.
Normally well-written, taut and engaging screenplays, like good editing should be invisible. They should fit seamlessly into the film-making process, but unfortunately for "The Happening", the writing, construction of drama and dialogue are so bad that the awful screenplay is apparent from the very first scene. The introduction of the main conflict is visually well done, but the writers never bother to move the story past its main conflict, thus making the film flat line dramatically very early on. Essentially nothing ever happens except the main characters totally unbelievable reactions to "The Happening" (i.e. the main conflict).
We, the audience are not emotionally attached to the characters because the screenplay gives us no reason to be. The film's sub-conflicts are basically non-existent and the character conflicts (emotional relationships) are contrived and hollow. The screenplay provides no emotional outlet or connection at all. Simply said this is a screenplay that should have been better vetted for emotional connection between the audience and characters on screen. We don't care about what's 'Happening' because the people to whom it is 'Happening' mean nothing to us. Someone should provide the screenwriter with a copy of Aristotle's "Poetics".
The dialogue is over the top, simplistic, explicit and begs the question - does anyone really talk like that? Line after line the screenplay falls further and further apart. The characters tell us what we can already see. Therefore the screenplay doesn't trust that the cinematic language of images is doing its job. The beauty of cinema is that with moving pictures we can say thousands upon thousands of words with each frame and never actually employ dialogue. This screenplay obviously does not respect that logic and in many ways flies right in the face of it. The film would be a lot better if the characters just simply reacted to the events unfolding around them.
The acting is unwatchable. No one in this film gives a good performance. The acting, similar to the screenplay is devoid of emotion. No one is reacting like a real person. Each character seems to be emotionally empty. They don't seem nervous that millions of people are dying, they're not hysterical (which doesn't not mean they should yelling and screaming) or even realistic. They at no time in the film seem desperate with the desire and hope to live. At times they try to appear upset, but it is so shallow that the viewer is left flat. Each actor delivers their lines without any regard or reaction to the actor in front of them. It is so bad that it makes one wonder whether or not the actors were actually on set together or just acting with stand-ins.
The sub-text of the film, which is meant to lead us to the theme mankind is destroying the planet, is blatant and lacks finesse. Pretty quickly into the first act we know that the plants are taking their revenge (I wish I was making this up, but this really is the plot of the film). The screenplay, dialogue and acting do nothing to merit the ending in which a professor on television is yelling about 'how we humanity are guilty for the recent horrors and need to pay better attention to our physical environment.' The films is just waving its fists and again telling us what to think rather than earning our trust. It tells us what its about. Basically the film underestimates us every step of the way.
The film never ventures into any kind of serious depth. It stays on the most basic, one-dimensional level. Plants are killing us - run away.
Blame for this film's failures should be squarely laid upon the director and producers. The director is guilty of writing and directing a very bad and unbelievable film. The producers are responsible for allowing the director to get away with this. Someone on the creative team and/or on the production side should have sounded an alarm when they read the screenplay. When the screenplay got into production one of the producers should have watched the rushes and pulled the director aside and said something.
"The Happening" is a failure on the most basic and important of cinematic levels. It does nothing to win, earn and deserve the audience's emotional and intellectual trust. It doesn't employ image as its main storytelling tool. It just tries to be clever, but is actually quite silly.
I for one don't care who the writer or director is, they must listen to their production and creative team. Film-making is a collaborative experience, but in the case of this film it is clear that no one bothered to be honest with Mr. Shyamalan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since "Signs", although I've
heard each was worse than the previous ones. Strangely, this gave me
hope that "The Happening" would be a turning point for the director
that had won so much acclaim with "Sixth Sense".
Sadly, this isn't the case. "The Happening" is easily the worst movie I have ever seen in a theater, and is a strong contender for the worst I've seen altogether. I've never even written an IMDb review before, but felt compelled to write one for this movie.
1) The acting is horrible. Sometimes you go to a movie and the cast has one lousy actor in it. This was the opposite. The entire cast is uniformly bad, with the possible exception of a construction worker in the beginning watching his buddies plummet to their deaths. These performances are a hallmark of poor direction. I know that Wahlberg, Deschanel, and Leguizamo can actually turn in good work under the right director.
2) Almost no one seems to react to what's going on around them in a realistic way. Only one person (practically an extra) ever really freaks out. Everyone else just kind of bumbles along until the wind catches up to them.
3) The premise is ridiculous. Supposedly, the plants are tired of us polluting the environment and mowing the grass, so they decide to start releasing toxins that cause humans to go insane and kill themselves. There are a few massive problems with this.
First, the movie presents evolution as something that occurs within the lifetimes of organisms, when it actually takes many thousands of generations. Trees haven't had any time at all to evolve that kind of defense mechanism, and grass isn't particularly concerned about being mowed. Otherwise, it would have evolved a toxin to kill off grazing animals thousands of years ago.
Second, the movie makes it seem as if the plants can somehow consciously communicate with each other. Although plants do indeed send out chemical signals, these signals are not under any kind of conscious control.
Third, the movie mixes up plant defenses with ecological phenomena such as algae blooms. Algae blooms occur when a variety of factors all converge to provide an ideal environment for overgrowth of algae. The algae population cannot sustain such large levels and eventually the excess dies off. Plant chemical defenses are not remotely similar. If a species of plants evolves a defense mechanism, all future descendants will have it, and it will continue working indefinitely. If such a mechanism appeared in grass, it would eventually make its way across the country. The effect wouldn't magically stop working just in time to save the protagonists of the story.
Finally, it doesn't make much sense for a "toxin" to cause suicides. That kind of behavioral alteration is usually seen in the reproductive cycles of parasites that infect their hosts' nervous systems. Plant defenses are either poisons (such as nicotine) or chemical signals that attract predators to hunt the plant's attackers.
4) By the way, the "antagonists" are plants. Although this could have been made to work somewhat like "Andromeda Strain", Shyamalan decided to add a bunch of foreboding shots of plant-life. It isn't easy to make trees and grass look evil, so wind kicked up each time people are about to die. The toxin would accumulate more in still air, so you'd be better off waiting for the wind to blow past you. Leave it to a science teacher to miss this point and make sure everyone "stays ahead of the wind".
5) The score is ham-fisted and overbearing.
6) So is the dialog.
7) There is no "twist". A random character we never care about reveals the cause of the mass suicides sometime in the middle of the movie, and he's exactly right. I was hoping the real cause would be the creepy lady at the end who hates the outside world, but alas no; she becomes a victim just like everyone else.
8) In a couple of scenes (at the very beginning and very end), we see one person who is not apparently affected by the "toxin". We never find out what happens to them, nor why they aren't affected. In reality, there would certainly be more people not affected, and the people who were would likely be affected in different ways. Psychoactive substances never affect everyone the same way.
9) Just before the final scene, we see Wahlberg, et al. back home three months after the attack. No one appears to have suffered any kind of psychological trauma. The little girl, whose parents are both dead, is going off to school, and somehow the Northeast is repopulated. I'd be very curious to know what they did with all those dead bodies. More likely, massive numbers of people who were not directly affected by the plants would have committed suicide due to depression. No one in their right minds would move back to the region, so the only living people in that part of the country would be clean up crews wearing Hazmat suits.
10) In the very beginning scene, the one person not affected by the toxin begins describing what she sees, but the camera never shows us. "Are those people clawing at themselves?" Where?! Sorry, you'll never see it. It's like watching a Bob Newhart phone conversation. In spite of the character's comment, you never see any of the victims clawing at themselves. Everyone who falls prey to the plant toxin freezes, then quietly (and expediently) commits suicide. It's a continuity error that occurs two minutes into the movie.
There are so many more things wrong with this film I don't think it's possible to list them all. The shortest list of the movie's flaws is, sadly, the movie itself. Hopefully this review will prevent you from seeing it, or at least prepare you for the inevitable disappointment.
Shyamalan has proved to us earlier that he can be as good as the best
with masterpieces of cinema with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Yet,
since then, he has declined steadily. Signs and Village were good
movies, but with Lady in the Water and now The Happening, he has
touched a level of incompetence that could never have been expected of
The Happening is about a pandemic that is gripping north-eastern USA. It starts with a stunning sequence of events that show people succumb to an unspecified threat the brilliance of this opening repeated only once more for a five-minute sequence towards the end of the movie. Unfortunately, Shyamalan's writing is a big let-down for the rest. As the focus moves from metropolitans to towns and from crowds to smaller groups, the sense of fear is lost the biggest sin a horror movie can commit. In the oft repeated criticism for its director, this movie would have been best served as a half-hour episode of Twilight Zone to make it really work.
And to add woe, the actors do not do much to better the experience Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are grossly miscast as the protagonists. Any of his previous leading men (Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Giamatti) can be imagined to have done a better job for the Science teacher that Wahlberg plays. The camera scrutinizes the performance to a degree that requires an actor with strength in emotions Wahlberg instead brings a physical presence that the role does not need. Zooey, on the other hand, struts around like in a Disney movie, not for once threatened by the pandemonium.
This time, though Shyamalan humbles his vanity you don't see him on screen. He now should swallow his pride and leave the writing to the writers. Armed with a better script, we can still expect Shyamalan to make his future movies worth waiting for. For now it is only the memory of the opening sequence, which can be proclaimed as mind-numbing greatness, which is really worth taking away from this movie.
Let me preface these comments by saying that I am a major Night fan. I
look forward to news of his next project and love the stories of his
supposed total control over his movies and carte blanche from the
studios. If those stories are true, I have a feeling that era will be
ending for Night with the release of The Happening. I ignored all the
pre-release press I could before going to see this movie. I read none
of the reviews, but one word I did catch was "uninspired."
Unfortunately, that one word describes this movie perfectly. In the
first ten minutes of the movie, I thought it was due to the acting and
that maybe Mark Wahlberg was miscast. However, after another ten
minutes I realized it wasn't the actors; it was the extremely lame
script. Without giving away any details, this is a disaster film where
the disaster "happening" starts with the first scene of the movie.
Unfortunately, no suspense builds and there is absolutely no sense of
dread or panic on screen and so none translates to the audience.
Surprising, since the 21st century has provided us with too many
occasions to study how we react in times of disaster, whether by nature
or terrorism. It's as if Night ignored all this when writing the story.
The characters sleepwalk through the scenes (and, no, it's not a
symptom of "the happening") with no believable sense of the horrible
events taking place. Granted, we don't need to see people running
around in circles screaming and crying, but people do not stand in
small groups after a disaster calmly taking turns talking one at a
time. Without sharing in any of the horror that the characters are
suppose to be experiencing, the film is a total bore for the audience
and the source of "the happening" is laughable when revealed. I found
myself repeatedly checking my watch, saying, "I can't believe how bad
this is" not something I'd expect to do in a Night movie. Looking
around the theater, I could tell others were sharing the same feelings.
Most were scrolling through emails or texting on their phones.
During the movie, since I wasn't paying much attention to the screen, I started thinking that there might be a good reason why most filmmakers do not have total control over their films. When they do, they can reach a point that it seems Night may have reached, where they say, "I'm going to make people scared when the wind blows" and actually believe themselves. Maybe other producers or execs can step in at that point and bring the filmmaker back to reality. I'm not giving up on Night, but I'll feel better if his next film is not "Written, Produced and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan."
What can I say. This movie sucked. Not even Mark Wahlberg, whom I rate
as a great actor, could save this turkey.
I don't intend to include any spoilers, unless you include the fact that nothing of any note goes on in this picture. Equally the script seems to be written from the perspective of a naive 10 year old for a U-rated audience. The details concerning the relationship friction between the central characters seem so childlike as to be pointless.
Zooey Deschanel, who I enjoyed in Failure to Launch, seems completely miscast or just terrible. Her principle role seems to be to appear as a giant doe-eyed girl stumbling from scene to scene as though awakening from a drug-induced coma.
Shyamalan made a great first movie and I also enjoyed Unbreakable. Other than that he's been sliding into an abyss of drivel and somebody needs to stop funding his crap so I can stop kidding myself into sitting through it with the idea that surely this time it'll be worth it.
I was disappointed to see such harsh reviews from the critics when
there are clearly much sillier and stupid films out there. "Zohan" was
about 60% at rotten tomatoes, while "The Happening" was at 14%. The
disappointment didn't last long when I realized, given the information
above, if critics had liked this movie, that might have been a bad
thing. I focused my attention on interviews with Shyamalan himself
talking about the film instead of the pretentious critics who have
grown accustom to hating his movies. I decided to take HIS advice and
go into the theater looking for a "fun B movie".
You will find that, and so much more. This movie is not your average thriller by any means. "The Happening" holds a solid "Twilight Zone" feel without being cliché or overused. This might be why the average masses didn't like it. We are used to being fed sequel after sequel after remake after remake. Don't get me wrong, those are fun movies to watch but the ART of film is being lost. The stereotypic perfect leading man who is smooth, witty, handsome and quick thinking who always saves the day will not be found in this film. Nor will the overuse of incredible special effects, slashing and squirting blood and gore, erotic sex scenes, fast paced chases, or crude language. Yes, the content is uncomfortable and disturbing and times, but it has a point. It's not goring for the sake of being goring and it's not uncontrolled in it's violence.
This film is simple. It has flawed and awkward characters who don't always say the smoothest thing. Everyone is imperfect and they don't handle the situations in the best "hollywood" type manner. Shyamalan did this on purpose. This movie is not paced for the "entertain me entertain me entertain me entertain me" type audiences we have mostly become. You are given the elements, but it's up to you to be able to slow down and feel the emotions in order to appreciate the film. The parable and meaning are so much deeper and innocent than what is popularized in media today. It will challenge you. It will make you think.
"The Happening" on the outside is a very fun and funny film. It is a "B" movie on the surface because of it's amazing simplicity, but by the end of the film you realize what it's actually all about. It's sad to see that so many people have completely missed it.
Bottom line: If you liked his other films, you must see this one, it falls into the ranks of everything made before Lady. If you didn't like his other films, stick to boring remakes and sequels.
When I first saw the trailer for 'The Happening', I was quite excited
at the prospect of another film by M. Night Shyamalan. After all, I
enjoyed all his previous films, save 'Lady in the Lake', and was sure
he would deliver another breath-taking blockbuster. Sadly, I was wrong
and while the film was not a turkey, it was not of the excellence I had
The film sees some sort of mysterious ecological event leading to people committing mass suicide, the phenomenon spreading first from large cities then to smaller towns until it is clear a huge chunk of the East Coast is affected. At first, it is assumed to be a terrorist attack but, as more and more people are spontaneously kill themselves, it is clear the cause may be something else entirely...
One of the problems with the film was the quality of the acting and the characters themselves. Mark Wahlberg stars as Elliot, the science teacher who is our main protagonist, and he does flounder in many scenes as if he forgets he's playing an intelligent but ordinary everyday guy, not a gung-ho military hero who is cool in all situations. He could have injected more emotion into his performance. Zooey Deschanel plays Elliot's girlfriend Alma and she too fails to make the audience care for her with the way she depicts the character to be some sort of an escapee from a teeny-booper romance flick. To be fair, it is not entirely Deschanel's fault as Alma is a weak, self-centred character with the emotional capacity of a young adolescent (for example, she puts Elliot and a child at risk a couple of times with her stupid decisions and, at the start, when it's clear people are dying, she is in a huff because Elliot and his friend 'hurt' her feelings).
When it comes to the actual storyline, the plot does start off intriguingly and there are many chilling moments when we see people are coolly committing suicide like mindless zombies. However, the finale doesn't deliver what the build-up promised. There are no real explanations or solid end result. In many ways, this film is similar to Shyamalan's previous project 'Signs' both in terms of a mass disaster and no real end resolution to the events but 'Signs' worked better because the characters were more effectively portrayed and their personal storyline was enough of a finale to compensate. This is not the case in 'The Happening' where the storyline fizzles out.
Overall, this is by no means a terrible film. It is enjoyable and fits nicely into the apocalyptic genre but 'Signs' has done this sort of idea before and did it better. That said, there was not only moments that had me on the edge of my seat but also lines which were quite humorous. And certainly, it does make one think about the state of the planet in regards to whether humanity does have it coming to them and how we would cope in such an event. It is worth a look, especially in a week when the other premiere is 'The Hulk, a film aimed at keeping twelve-year-olds' entertained.
Who keeps giving M. Night Shyamalan money to make these movies?
Seriously, what studio executive read this script and thought that
making this movie would be a good idea? After the disaster that was
Lady in the Water Shyamalan comes back with a movie which unbelievably,
almost impossibly, may actually be worse. Lousy acting, laughably bad
dialogue and a story which is just downright stupid combine to make one
Anyhow the story here is that starting in New York City and then quickly spreading through the Northeast everyone is suddenly killing themselves. Everyone drops what they're doing, seemingly goes catatonic for a moment and then offs themselves anyway they can. Fling themselves off the top of a building, shoot themselves in the head...whatever. What could possibly make people do this? Obviously it must be some kind of terrorist attack or so everyone thinks. There certainly is something bad in the air and people need to flee. And here we meet our main characters, a Philadelphia high school science teacher and his wife along with his friend and his friend's daughter. They get out of the city, inevitably get stuck in the middle of nowhere, the characters begin to do and say things which make no sense whatsoever and the whole movie falls apart as we watch people try to run away from the wind.
Mark Wahlberg has the central role here and his performance is truly awful. Certainly he isn't helped by the hideous script but it really seems as if Wahlberg can do nothing right. He seems rather emotionless for a guy trying to figure out why everyone's engaging in mass suicide. As his wife, Zooey Deschanel goes through the film with a blank stare on her face. Some of the corpses show more life. Most of the other characters we meet make a bad impression if they make any impression at all. Some truly bizarre people wander in and out of this movie. And all of them are forced to spout dialogue which is so bad it often becomes unintentionally funny. Somebody wrote that? Really? Ha-ha. But as bad as the acting and dialogue are it's the story which is the biggest problem. Once the movie reveals what actually is happening it becomes impossible to take the story seriously. Stupid. So very, very stupid. The premise makes no sense, doesn't work at all, and thus the movie is doomed to failure. I really can't fathom that after reading the script anyone actually encouraged Shyamalan to go ahead and make this movie. The Sixth Sense sure was a long time ago.
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