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The Happening (2008)

We've Sensed It. We've Seen The Signs. Now... It's Happening.

Directed by:

M. Night Shyamalan

Rating: 5/10

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening was touted as the director’s “first R-rated film!” That’s what the commercials said, the trailers—somehow, this was going to be something completely new. Problem is, it wasn’t. Sure, the premise is sort of new, and the actual “happening” that’s happening is an idea we haven’t really seen before, but a lot of this feels like familiar territory, and unfortunately, the retread feels rushed and over-edited.

Right out of the gate, strange things start happening in The Happening. People inexplicably begin stabbing themselves with hairpins, jumping off of buildings—basically, offing themselves with what appears to be no provocation. High school science teacher Elliott Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), on the run from whatever mysterious force is turning the population against itself, see a lot of crazy, scary stuff while trying to figure out what the heck is going on. We are along for the trip.

Now, the story itself is intriguing, and when the actual reason behind the weirdness is revealed, it’s an interesting slant that hasn’t really been done before. But then, in a way, it has, just in different contexts. Also, there are some genuinely creepy moments and images throughout, and Wahlberg and Deschanel are a surprisingly likeable and believable couple. And, I have to say, nature turning on us and giving us the metaphorical suicide finger is always a little scary. For a movie hyped as Shyamalan’s first R-rated venture, however, it’s awfully tame, even compared to his previous films. Coming in at just a bit over 90 minutes, the whole thing felt like someone just didn’t like the original finished product so they took a machete, closed their eyes, and chopped away. Love or hate other his other flicks (The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water), each had a distinct voice; what The Happening suffers from is that somehow, it seems Shyamalan was stifled into producing a product instead of a story. Not necessarily a bad movie, The Happening is one of the few movies I’ve seen that would have benefitted from being LONGER instead of shorter, if only for the fact that maybe it wouldn’t have felt like the story had been cut into disjointed bits that only occasionally pieced themselves together. By the time “the twist” is revealed, no one really cares, and I, for one, was left feeling very disappointed.

It's Got: Some scary little moments, likeable main characters, and what could’ve been a great premise

It Needs: Better editing, better marketing, better explanation

Alternatives:

The Mist, The Village, War of the Worlds

Summary

Nature turns mean, but not as mean as she could be in an R-rated movie, in this uneven wanna-be horror film.

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