The Happening

The Happening

So this is M. Night Shyamalan's idea of a joke, taking the paranoia and 9/11 subtext and making a complete mockery of it. My reaction: "What? No!"

Like the characters in the film, The Happening has no idea what to make of what's going on. This premise of toxins in the air causing mass suicide could be presented in one of two ways: either as a serious drama or as an intense thriller. Shyamalan makes the wretched decision to go both ways, therefore neither one gets enough time to form its intended vibe. I spent so much of the film feeling uncomfortable not because I sympathized with the protagonists, but because of the shockingly bad direction the story goes.

But that's only the beginning to why this movie is so terrible. None of the dialogue comes off as natural, and the more dramatic it gets, the more unintentionally funny it really is. There are so many tight shots that it no longer emits an intimacy, with Deschanel's character being introduced with one of the most uncomfortable close-ups I've ever seen. And to top it all off, the performances never sell the fact these characters are in serious peril. Wahlberg, in particular, has some of the most hilariously po-faced line delivery I've heard in a long time ("Take an interest in science" is an early example of how awful his lines get).

Shyamalan has proven how good he is at suspense in his previous catalog, but those talents are nowhere to be seen. Despite the hour and a half runtime, this barely has momentum to it and it actually slows down as it goes along. Because of the indecisive direction, some characters are given actual development and others simply function as cannon-fodder. The script tries to portray the deadly toxins as a monstrous being, but it never feels like it's actually threatening. And don't tell me that copout of an ending was meant to be a twist.

Aside from a mass suicide scene at a construction site and a solid orchestral score, The Happening fails both as a fun B-movie and a serious parable. I know some people have considered this a "so-bad-it's-good" movie, but I didn't find this enjoyable enough to give it that merit. To put it mildly, this film is just plain awful, no more no less.

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