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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.35%
Worth A Look: 7.06%
Average: 14.12%
Pretty Bad: 34.12%
Total Crap42.35%

5 reviews, 55 user ratings

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Happening, The
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by brianorndorf

"Shyamalan almost redeems himself"
3 stars

The opening movement of “The Happening” is a virtuoso guitar solo of alarm. It’s the sharpest collection of footage writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has ever committed to the screen, launching his latest picture on a giddy note of assured doom; a chilling introduction to the human race’s greatest adversary: the unknown.

When a deadly toxin is released into the air, it causes the public to lash out in violent ways, rolling out waves of suicides that officials are baffled by. When the panic hits Pennsylvania, high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg, miscast as a boy scout type) takes his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and a small pack of survivors into the countryside to escape the invisible threat, finding bodies everywhere they turn. Suspecting a terrorist attack, Elliot looks for clues to support a logical explanation, but what he finds are answers that reach beyond the realm of human understanding.

Licking his wounds after the justifiable pummeling he took with the inane 2006 bedtime story “Lady in the Water,” “Happening” shows an exciting new level of aggression for the habitually lyrical Shyamalan. As the marketing trumpets, this is Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature, and “Happening” willingly doles out the nightmares as the bravura suicide sequences are revealed in lurid detail. Hairpins are jammed into jugulars, zoo employees encourage lions to snack on their limbs, and suburban dads crawl under lawn mowers; Shyamalan summons a bleak mood of mass death as it blows from city to city. It’s a blood-spurting, skin-crawling first act that’s worth the price of admission alone to witness the coldly reserved filmmaker revel in a bit of uncharacteristic pandemonium.

The rest of “Happening” slips helplessly into familiarity once Shyamalan fattens himself on the calories of the early going. Always a distanced filmmaker, I had hope that Shyamalan could ditch his beloved community theater atmospherics and try to forge new ground with this film, but the opportunity is squandered. “Happening” starts to resemble a retread of “Signs” in the second half, as Elliot and his “family” seek out abandoned homes in the countryside for shelter. The film exhausts its claustrophobia here, hopelessly bending to standard Shyamalan touches that he milked dry long ago. The more Elliot leaves the masses behind, the less special “Happening” becomes, tiring out Shyamalan’s imagination and his ability to properly unnerve the audience.

There’s no reason for me to reveal who or what is behind the deadly attack, but I will say it’s a fantastic starter pistol for a horror film. Unfortunately, Shyamalan doesn’t follow through on this premise, allowing “Happening” to slowly, painfully deflate as he scrounges to erect a button of terror for the third act and unearth fruitless emotional content between Elliot and Alma. Too many old habits break down the picture, especially the staccato rhythms of the acting and the script’s tendency to chase plot threads that distract the suspense further. “Happening” is only 85 minutes long, but it’s oddly winded by the conclusion, which effectively smudges the contact high of the throat-slashing, body-breaking commencement.

It’s become clear that if you’ve seen one Shyamalan film, you’ve seen them all. “Happening” promises a change of pace, but the magic only lasts for a few moments, then it’s all open acre isolation, media blackouts, and mysterious threats with extended, mouth-agape pauses. One could say these are endearing motifs, but I’m more inclined to reject them as Shyamalan’s crutches: acts of storytelling repetition that have grown moldy and dramatically inert.

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originally posted: 06/14/08 03:49:12
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell lame 1 stars
5/28/16 Ken This film is a big fat fail! 1 stars
8/15/14 Mario is the Best What a stupid movie! 1 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC Nothing HAPPENING... Doesn't even deserve 1 star 1 stars
1/17/12 Lenny Zane One star for eye candy of Zooey Deschanel. Plot is a descent into crass lunacy. 2 stars
8/16/11 chris Creepy, a little, but the hilarious acting kills it and so does the hilarious twist. 3 stars
9/21/10 art A WILD STORY!,A VERY WILD STORY!!!! 2 stars
3/28/10 Adam The dialogue was eye-gougingly bad...but I didn't hate it. 2 stars
10/20/09 2Cruzy Even on DVD...Pretty Crappy! Glad I didn't pay real money to see this POS... Fail! 1 stars
10/19/09 auzzie chickie first 30 secs r great but the rest... It's the wind! RUN! ppl running from nothing?..ok... 2 stars
8/13/09 Daniel Kelly Saw it last year and was not impressed. Can't imagine it gets better on a 2nd viewing 2 stars
7/07/09 art A FRIGHTENING FABLE! 4 stars
7/05/09 MP Bartley Woeful acting and dreadful in spots - but equally quite tense and effective in others. 3 stars
4/18/09 Dani O. Mark Wahlberg's performance? Two words: "Garbage Day!" Such a squander. 2 stars
1/27/09 Shaun Wallner Scary Film! 5 stars
12/22/08 FrankNFurter Wahlberg begging mercy from a houseplant is the funniest moment in American cinema. 1 stars
11/24/08 g. ho hum 2 stars
11/16/08 drdanny The reviewers are too kind. it's just awful. 1 stars
11/04/08 David A pretty well thought out movie, and i actually as well as most of my friends enjoyed it 4 stars
10/21/08 George (DUKE) Hokey Hokey this is last M Night movie 1 stars
10/08/08 Jon G A fun movie 4 stars
9/13/08 Bruce Curb Cheap ending indeed(but I think premise really has nowhere to go),but ZooeyDesChanel is HOT 3 stars
9/13/08 Meredith Harshaw Suspenseful buildup, cheap ending. Premise more suited to pure horror than message flick. 3 stars
8/26/08 KTM Chick Have an absolute horror of summer breezes? A must see! 1 stars
7/06/08 Jayson Save your money and run. 2 stars
7/03/08 damalc Sobczynski could really use an editor 2 stars
6/29/08 ahnold Similar to Signs, but "so what"? Interesting interplay bn characters as usual. 5 stars
6/28/08 frank_reed Search YouTube for The Crappening: A Happening Parody 1 stars
6/27/08 ab Awful Movie 1 stars
6/27/08 Ole Man Bourbon "The Crappening" would be an honest title. Comically bad. 1 stars
6/23/08 L.A. Francois Bady storyline, poor script. Disappointing for this director. 2 stars
6/21/08 Erix This Shyamalan hatred is bordering on irrational. This was a good thriller. 4 stars
6/20/08 Oliver Klozov More 'Earth good, Man bad, must die' blather, makes Day After Tomorrow look smart 1 stars
6/19/08 Tom A sub-par Twlight Zone episode padded to 91 minutes. 2 stars
6/18/08 Gary Remember when his movies had cool endings? Even Wahlberg cant save this one 1 stars
6/18/08 Quigley A major misstep for M. Night. Let's hope he'll come back eventually. 3 stars
6/18/08 Joe So so So So Bad 1 stars
6/17/08 Anthony G Good, sad to see people become sheep and not form their own opinion. 4 stars
6/16/08 matt I thought it was an interesting social commentary... but the ending was just stupid 3 stars
6/16/08 Grace He's a fine director, but he really needs to stop writing his own scripts. 2 stars
6/16/08 pin I didn't even see this, but I know it sucks. 1 stars
6/16/08 Amy E Awesome premise... too bad it didn't have an awesome movie to go with it. 2 stars
6/16/08 ESC Did anyone else play 'spot the boom mic?' What was that about? 1 stars
6/16/08 Sean I wanted this movie to be good, but it sucked... 2 stars
6/16/08 bhavin This guy deserves one "STAN......""ONE TIGHT SLAP"...STANDING ovation in yr dreams syhamlan 1 stars
6/16/08 Kristy The acting was horrible and the end was so predictable. Not worth the time or $ 1 stars
6/16/08 GC NOTE to hollywood-yeah 6th sense was good, but please STOP letting this man make movies 1 stars
6/16/08 jessica i seriously walked out.... the most scripted acting I have ever seen. HORRIBLE!!!!! 1 stars
6/14/08 Jesse WORST movie I've seen in many years. 1 stars
6/14/08 Random meaningless meanderings 2 stars
6/14/08 James Eric M Night: Run yourself over with a lawnmower or get eaten by a lion please 1 stars
6/14/08 Alex Thorne Odd to say the least. a promising start quickly leads to lethargic meandering. strike 3?... 2 stars
6/13/08 Harish Nayar Quite bad! 2 stars
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  13-Jun-2008 (R)
  DVD: 07-Oct-2008


  DVD: 07-Oct-2008

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