Sometimes it’s a shame that movies have to last at least 80 minutes before they can get into theaters. M. Night. Shyamalan’s latest thriller ‘The Happening’ works in early spurts, but apparently Shyamalan (who gave us ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Signs’) ran out of ideas once he came up with his uniquely insidious killer.Imagine an unseen force that leads legions of people to inexplicably kill themselves at once. Within minutes, New York’s Central Park becomes a bloodbath without a single assailant attacking.
The event understandably sends the residents of outlying regions into a panic. The source of the carnage is uncertain, and people quickly become like the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead.” But they’re more interested in offing themselves instead of dining on the flesh of others.
Shyamalan quickly heads to his hometown of Philadelphia where a science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his neurotic wife (Zooey Deschanel) rush to make it out of town once it appears the force has apparently struck their city.
The farther they and their math teacher pal (John Leguizamo) run out of the city, the more chaotic things get. Instead of becoming scarier, the film devolves into a bizarre self-parody.
It’s as if Shyamalan ran out of interesting ways for the victims of his plague to kill themselves, so he settles for the most outrageous means possible. After a while, the deaths become more comical than tragic.
Perhaps if the people running from the plague were more than simple one-note characters, it might have been easier to hope they’d survive. Instead, many seem like excellent reasons for natural selection.
Shyamalan recreates the same creepy atmosphere of his earlier film “Signs.” But his previous movie was a fine example of how what viewers don’t see is scarier than what they do, “The Happening” is full of gore. Because the people aren’t that interesting, the torn bodies seem like a poor substitute for suspense.To his credit, Shyamalan is the son of physicians, so it’s great to hear scientific lingo coming from Wahlberg’s mouth that actually sounds right. If Shyamalan had spent as much time thinking of how people act and talk, “The Happening” would have been more scary than silly.