Review: ‘The Happening’

I didn’t expect to see anything more disappointing than Indy 4 this summer, but once again, I was wrong.

After Philadelphia science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is told that school is being let out for the day due to “an incident” in New York City’s Central Park that may be a terrorist attack, he meets with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) to leave the city when invited by a friend (John Leguizamo) and his daughter to spend a few days in the countryside. Departing by train, the passengers find themselves stranded after the train shuts down service. As people flee the cities and break up into smaller and smaller groups, no one seems to be spared by the killer phenomenon for long. Is the question “what is the cause” or is it “when will it end?” Only M. Night Shyamalan knows for sure.

It may be obvious that this latest M. Night Shyamalan flick doesn’t follow his normal conventions. This time, nature itself appears to be the villain, making this a disaster flick masquerading as a horror film. That said, most of the horror is all in the previews while the rest of the film is little more than pointless dialog delivered by Mark Wahlberg and practically nothing in the way of a resolution by the film’s end. What happens happens, then it stops happening, credits roll. It now becomes clear that M. Night desperately needs to find that special someone whose opinion he’ll listen to when they say,”No! BAD writer-producer-director! NOT a good idea!”

The movie seems to center on Wahlberg’s character as the assumed hero with greatness thrust upon him, but what we get on screen is like following “Bill Nye the Science Guy” into a combat zone with BB guns guns to use against an armored tank division. Only the little mute girl (likely inspired by Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim) invokes even a little bit of caring what happens to anyone as she patiently gets passed back and forth between adults while waiting to die. Even the music wavers between creep-inducing and whimsical, as if it should be obvious that the movie is ridiculous while at the same taking itself too seriously.

Was it miscasting, a bad script, poor direction, or all of the above that made this film pointless to watch? With baffling transitions between railway workers claiming they’ve lost contact with everyone then followed by news that only the Northeastern US is being effected, it’s as if the film we’re watching was cobbled together poorly from a better movie we’ve never heard of. With no direction, no exposition, and no real hope, it’s bleak without purpose, and even the few moments when you suspect this might all be an elaborate joke, even the Z-grade made-for-television SciFi Channel Saturday night movies are more entertaining than this.

Just for sake of argument, Shyalaman does get one thing perfect, so here’s how I would have reedited the film around it. After the opening credits, a newscast shows reports of what’s happening in New York City. This cuts to a shot of an older couple wearing gas masks while going about their business waiting out the crisis, rocking away in their chairs as the subtitles tell us this scene is set in West “By God” Virginia. Fade out to a another newscast showing the crisis is over, and cue the end credits. You could watch the whole thing in 30 seconds on YouTube and save your ticket price for The Incredible Hulk.

(a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. yeh i did a 3 bager this particular weekend and this was by far the most disapointing movie of the 3 which is sad as i generally enjoy Shyalamans films


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