Quick Hit: Only watchable in short stretches.
I was a part of the reason that this film was made - I can take responsibility. I was among the faithful that thought that M. Night Shyamalan could do no wrong. I loved The Sixth Sense, enjoyed Signs, thought The Village was pretty good, and even thought that Lady in the Water had a lot going for it. But he lost me at The Happening. I’ll never forget how excited I was during the marketing for the film… and how disappointed I was when I walked out of it.
The gist is this – something starts causing people to off themselves. In typical fashion, these are gruesome to watch on screen, and rarely flinch from showing you the effects. There’s also a bit of Stephen King type writing in here – showing that normal people can become bad guys too, just given the rights situation (for more on this, see Under the Dome, The Stand, etc.). However, despite some really creepy scenes and a decent idea… this just falls apart.
Let’s start with the acting, which is just atrocious. I normally try not to be too textually vicious with my reviews, because someone worked really hard on it, regardless of how it turned out. But the casting decisions are just out of left field. Why would anyone believe Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher, especially one that asks really, really dumb questions? How is Zooey Deschanel, of whom I’m a HUGE fan of (see Elf, 500 Days of Summer, Yes Man, New Girl) as bad as she is in this movie? Some of her lines are delivered just painfully, as if she were under duress when giving them. The only moment I can think of that she feels natural is when she is alone in the room talking to Wahlberg through a tube.
Then there are the side characters, of which I’m normally not that bothered by – like the dude with the huge arm in Lady in the Water. But what’s the redeeming quality for big-eyed guy who likes hot dogs? Spoiler alert that is ten years late – there is no redeeming quality for that guy. He might get your mouth to twitch lightly in the direction of a smile. And the old lady? Don't get me started on her - there is literally no reason for her existence in this movie. The only good thing to come out of her character was that I think it served as an inspiration for The Visit.
As stated in the acting section, the script is really, really bad. Shyamalan’s writing of dialogue is always probably the weakest point in the film – but most the time, it’s because it just sounds like real life, and we’re used to more gussied up wording. Here, it sounds so unreal that it comes off unnatural.
And oh my goodness the ending and the reasoning for this freaking outbreak of suicides. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve watched a lot of movies, many of them horror movies that take the barest of things and attempt to make them scary. I watched a movie about a freaking tornado full of sharks for this site. But this one hurts.
I can’t recommend not wasting your time by watching this movie enough. Please let’s move on to the Shyamalanasaince and start looking forward to Glass next year. I’m giving this a “D-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"