The Happening **
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan and I have an odd little history together-looking back I have either loved his films immensely-three of them had odd emotional effects on me. And the other three I have detested quite a bit. The three which I loved are "The Sixth Sense," "The Village," and "Lady in the Water,"-the latter two being hated among film fans everywhere, and to this day I have only found a handful of people who liked them just a little bit. And the three I detested quite a bit have been "Unbreakable," "Signs," and now "The Happening," which nearly everything goes wrong. Marketed strongly as the first R rated Shyamalan film-which seems to be just a way to get people in the seats after the strong failure of "Lady in the Water,"-Shyamalan tells quite a disturbing story (and the film does have its small share of actual disturbing moments), but goes a bit over the top in his telling of him. Shyamalan's ego (he even credits himself for a performance that you can hardly hear as its over the phone the whole time) has been announcing that the film was intended to be over the top in B movie fashion, but to me it just seems like a way to try and save himself from having a bad movie on his hands.
The films tells about Elliot and Alma Moore, who along with their friend Julian, his daughter Jess, and pretty much the entire state of New York have to find a safe place to be after a mysterious attack ends with people killing themselves in odd fashion. Cops shoot themselves in the middle of the street, people get disoriented and forgetting how to speak, and construction workers throw themselves off buildings. Some say its terrorism, but it turns out that there is something even more dangerous going on, and Shyamalan quickly weaves this into an environmental cautious horror story. Things go wrong from the first second with the awful acting. Not only are leads Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel delivering poor work, but also every single extra, every single side character-every appearance by everyone on screen delivers such massively bad performances-from the over the top way they talk to their voices which seem so high pitched and unnatural. Its as if the toxins that were unleashed suddenly turn everyone into bad actors. And the script is kind of a mess as well, and Shyamalan could have weaved a very effective story if he didn't drift as much as he does. One main problem is the introduction of a creepy lady who doesn't know about the attacks, and who has a creepy doll in her bedroom, but before that could be explained she begins to ram her head into the wall. Even James Newton Howards score, which has been a highlight in all of Shyamalan's other films, is annoying and intrusive. There are a few effective scenes-and most of the suicide segments are disturbing in their suddenness and creativity-but on the whole "The Happening" is a weak effort, especially considering what a good storytelling Shyamalan could be and has been for a long time.