Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
” From M. Night Shyamalan, the writer-director of ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Signs,’ comes a gripping thriller about a family on the run from a mysterious and deadly phenomenon. Academy Award Nominee Mark Wahlberg (2006 Best Supporting Actor – ‘The Departed’) stars as Elliot Moore, an ordinary man trying to save his family from a terrifying, invisible killer. As Elliot begins to discover the true nature of what is lurking out there, it soon becomes clear that no one – and nowhere – is safe.”
“The Happening” is rated R for violent and disturbing images.
I kind of get the same feeling from M. Night Shyamalan as I do from George Lucas. I eagerly anticipate every film they do and I unfortunately set my expectations too high. And when their film comes out and I’m somewhat underwhelmed, I still eagerly get in line for their next film. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.
I missed “The Happening” in theaters, but I heard enough about it to know that the premise sounded stupid – trees kill off the human race. The idea was so preposterous that, despite my love for Shyamalan and what he tries to do, I couldn’t bear to watch it in the theater. Seeing other films with similar plots, like “The Ruins,” didn’t help matters. So this time I went into the movie with my expectations set very low. The final verdict? “The Happening” has a LOT of problems, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated.
I’m a sucker for apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic films. There’s something about stories of an everyman facing the end of the world and trying to survive that appeals to me. It doesn’t even really matter how the world is ending as long as the survival part is good. So the fact that trees were killing people was forgivable. On some levels it worked pretty good because it was a colorless, odorless, inescapable killer that they were running from, and the way it killed people was pretty graphic. So from that point of view it was pretty good.
Unfortunately, “The Happening” has problems everywhere else. First of all, it’s pretty much “Signs,” but with trees instead of aliens. In many ways it feels like a rehashed script. Second, every scene where it features just two people talking is agonizing to sit through… and that’s a lot of the film. The dialogue is awkward and stiff, and the acting didn’t help matters. Every single performance in this film is very wooden. Every scene between Wahlberg and Deschanel is painful to watch and the characters are not likable at all. The story also takes a wild left turn towards the end when the characters shelter with a crazy old woman living by herself in the woods. In some respects she’s scarier than the tree threat, but she seems too bizarre to fit the rest of the film.
In the end, M. Night Shyamalan seems like he’s trying too hard to make a political or environmental statement. He tackles a cool subject like he always does, whether it be superheroes or ghosts or aliens or whatever, but the execution doesn’t quite work out. “The Happening” isn’t his worst film in my opinion, but it is another misstep.
There are a fair number of bonus features on the DVD. There are four Deleted Scenes – Elliot and Alma Fight, Lion Attack, Music Recital, and Survivalist Porch. There’s not much noteworthy here, especially as it features more weak dialogue between Wahlberg and Deschanel. A scene where a student commits suicide at a musical recital comes across as quite stupid. “The Hard Cut” discussed the decision to make this R rated and what that entails. “I Hear You Whispering” covers the crazy woman, Mrs. Jones. “A Day for Night” follows Shyamalan through a typical day of filming while “Visions of The Happening” is your standard ‘making of’ featurette. “Elements of a Scene” covers the scene where the car crashes into the tree and it’s the highlight of the bonus features. It covers the animatics on the car crash scene, computers controlling the car and the camera, the suicide effects, and more. It’s amazing how complex the filming of the scene was. Rounding things out are a Gag Reel and Trailers.