The Happening review by The Grim Ringler


In the pantheon of recently popular directors it’s hard to find one that’s gone more quickly from first to worst than M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. Since the release of UNBREAKABLE the director known for his twists, M Night has been getting drubbed pretty regularly by movie nerds and critics alike, sometimes fairly, most times not. The thing with M Night is that everyone keeps waiting for the next SIXTH SENSE, which is naïve but, that’s movie nerds for you. Me, I have liked all of the man’s films save for VILLAGE, which would have been good if it weren’t for the ending so I was pretty excited to see what he’d do with a darker story and an ‘R’ rating. Alas, the nerds are finally right one this on. Sort of.

It begins in Central Park, a incidences of sudden paralysis in people that leads to a mental break that causes them to commit suicide. No one knows what to think of the incidents and it is immediately ruled a terrorist attack. Two Philadelphia school teachers in the middle of their classes are called away from their students to a meeting of faculty where they learn of the attacks in New York and that the school is shutting down because of them. The two men decide to gather together (one getting his daughter, the other his wife) and head as far away from the East Coast as they can get. Things don’t go quite as the men planned though as the train they are in takes an unexpected stop when they lose all communications. Uncertain what to do, the families set out on foot to get as far away from the occurrences as possible. The father, wanting to find and rescue his wife, heads off on his own, leaving his daughter with the other couple, and so everyone is split as they search for safety. As the young couple and girl head to safety they find out how far sweeping the danger is. Everywhere they go death follows and as they come across other survivors, the clearer it becomes as to what is happening and also how dangerous things are becoming. To survive, the three must do it alone, as far from other people as possible but how do they escape a danger that is all around them and ready to strike?

I had been interested in this project since learning the story involved and have really been a fan of M. Night since SIXTH SENSE. Sure, he doesn’t always get it right but more times than not he has for me. When the movie came out, I read all the negative reviews, and read about how awful this was supposed to be but the thing is that I had liked other movies of his that many hadn’t so, darn it, I wanted to see for myself. Well, I have, and the heck if it is that there is all potential but little follow through here. The story is interesting and potentially frightening but it rarely reaches that level. There’s a brilliant novel entitled THE BRIDGE that is what this should have been – a harrowing warning that is relentless. THE HAPPENING just sorta starts strong then coasts along. It’s as if M. Night bought into his hype and figured, meh, it’ll work itself out. The bummer for me is that I like the man’s films, generally and, truly, this has the look and feel of the other films, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, what’s good is limited. The acting is awful and reaches the point of howlingly bad at points. The plot, while interesting, has the benefit of some huge and ridiculous logical leaps where people either know too much or figure it all out with little to go on outside of hunches. Sure, it’s gruesome, and very harrowing, but the scenes that were used in the trailer are pretty much the long and short of it all and none of it seems to go quite far enough. It’s as if he was still stuck in the mindset of making a PG-13 film even though he had the ok for an R.

There is some good. The story is compelling, if flawed. The story is scary and there are genuine scares here. The atmosphere is great. Overall, it’s not awful, it’s just not that great. It all feels like a missed opportunity to make a gritty, dark film but instead he made a stunted eco-terror film that never quite lives up to its potential. I read where M. Night called this the greatest ‘B’ movie of all time and, while I take issue with that statement, he may not be completely wrong. THE HAPPENING is a film that will do much better on the home video market, with lessened expectations, no hype, and some time to simmer. It isn’t great, at all, but it’s interesting and has some good moments, and, if taken as a ‘B’ movie, well, then I guess it’s pretty ok, if that’s all he was hoping for.
It’s better than you heard or read, but not nearly as good as they told you it’d be.


6 out of 10 Jackasses

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