The Happening (2008)
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Review Date: July 18, 2008
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer
Mark Wahlberg as Elliot
Zooey Deschanel as Alma
John Leguizamo as Julian
This film begins as people suddenly starting killing themselves in large numbers in cities on the East Coast of the United States. Marky Mark and his wife join the gaggle of folks who start to evacuate the big cities and head into the smaller towns. Nobody knows what is causing these folks to whack themselves in the thousands, but one thing is for sure…Bruce Willis has nothing to do with it. M. Night Shyamalan ensues…
Before I get to my review, allow me to mention how this film’s first 30 minutes engulfed me by the balls, more than any other movie that I’ve seen so far this year. I mean, no matter what people say about writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, I don’t think many can argue his talent when it comes to creating an ominous situation with growing suspense. My balls were engulfed, man! But enough about my balls. Unfortunately for Mr. Shyamalan and anyone else sitting in the audience watching this movie, the utter strength of the film’s first 30 minutes ultimately becomes its greatest weakness, since it isn’t able to maintain that growing suspense and eager anticipation all the way through, and things start to feel redundant after a while, and ultimately…not as satisfying as you’d expect from a film that built its base so well. Kinda like when a friend tells you that he’s got this “amazing idea” for a movie and he describes something really cool about an alien invasion or something, and you say, “Okay, that’s a very cool first act, but what happens after that?” and your friend just kinda stares at you blankly. That’s not to say that this film’s second half wasn’t engaging in any way, because it did answer some of the questions that the film built up so succinctly in its first half, but I think that the answers weren’t as profound or cool as I’d hoped they’d be.

The lead actors were okay, with Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg really well throughout the entire picture, while Zooey Deschanel continued to prove that she’s an adorable person, even when the planet Earth is seemingly dying all around her (although as an adult wife, she seemed more like a 12-year old for the first half of the movie). Someone should finance a documentary on her eyes alone though…wow, have you seen those things?!? But back to the actors. I thought John Leguizamo did a great job as the torn father, but a couple of the secondary characters seemed a little too over-the-top or just plain “weird”, under the circumstances. For example, why was the Army dude they ran into, a total doofus? And how come that old crazy woman was so friggin’ crazy? And even though I liked the “hot dog guy”, what was his deal? But on the whole, the film peaked my interest all the way through, didn’t outstay its welcome by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, I wished it had been a little longer with greater depth) and offered a ton of cruel and unusual suicides throughout its runtime. And while I did appreciate all that, I also thought that the killings seemed a little gratuitous after a while, the small girl in the movie was way too “cool” under the circumstances and the film felt redundant more than gratifying, once all was said and done.

That said, I think most critics have been overly-brutal toward this film and Shyamalan, and in this case, undeservedly so. The film still boasts plenty of creepy atmosphere, a heaping of suspense and memorable images, and ultimately sends a “good message” out there. It isn’t perfect though, so go into it with reservations and you may just enjoy it a lot more than most people. As for me, I’m going to ask Miss Deschanel’s eyes to marry me. Wish me luck! As for all those people complaining about “plot holes” or that the “why” of the movie ultimately was too far-fetched…if you pretend that the film is science-fiction, does that make it better? If it does, then pretend it’s sci-fi and go with it, asshole. It’s a fuckin’ movie, not a documentary about the planet earth.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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