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The Happening doesn't really Happen at all
The Happening (DVD)
Member Name: bilbob20
The Happening (DVD)
Advantages: An interesting premise, and good set up
Disadvantages: Bad acting, bad scripting, and an unbelievable resolution
The Happening opens with the intruiging premise of a group of people in Central Park suddenly hit by some unknown force that causes them to become disorientated and eventually kill themselves. An early sequence showing a group of building site workers throwing themselves from the top of a building is effective and frightening. However, as events unfold, the film becomes more and more ludicrous.
As scientist Eliot and his girlfriend, along with a group of unaffected New Yorkers, head for Philadelphia, they are stopped in their tracks midway due to the news that the attacks have spread. They find themselves in a no mark town and forced to split into smaller groups. Apparently, its not a terrorist attack as first believed, but the plants that are letting off toxins that cause the brain to react and shut down the mechanism that makes human beings preserve themselves from danger.
If The Village, Signs and Lady In The Water were bad movies, they are virtually Oscar winners in comparison to The Happening. Many sequences leave you jaw droppingly astounded at the stupidity. The biggest gripe with the film is how science teacher Elliot comes up with these theory's plucked out of thin air and they nearly always turn out to be true. This guy should be finding out the key to existence. Never mind that his theory's contradict most of what has come before. For instance, in once sequence Elliot reduced his group to only 5 people and it apparently prevents the toxins from reacting. However, only 10 minutes before another group of 5 people ably set off the toxins enough for the lead driver to drive their car into a tree and kill them.
Another problem is the characterizations. Elliot's wife Alma is a prime example of a character who completely changes gear halfway through the film. At first she is a selfish woman who cant seem to commit her feelings to her husband, opting to travel alone as mass panic sets underway. Then half way through the film she suddenly develops a selflessness towards both her husband and his friend's daughter who they somehow become saddled with. Things get even more bizzare in the second half of the film when the leads take up with a strange old woman who is convinced they are there to murder her in her sleep and steal her worldly goods. Eh?
Among all the other unbelievable turn of events is a nasty script that focuses on trivialities rather than the grand scheme of things. It would appear that M Night Shyamalan is adopting a Hitchcockian approach to his films, and whilst the set up is certainly promising, most of his material is bogged down by his need to gear his films away from the large scale effects of the catastrophe. Where Hitchcock maintained suspense throughout, Shyamalan is lost to bad acting, terrible scripting and the most insane reasoning committed to film.
About that acting. Mark Walhberg is occassionally likeable, but his soft spoken approach to his science teacher role is weak and unconvincing. Much of his mumbling just becomes irritating, although he is able to muster up enough panic in his face for you to at least relate to the terror of what is happening around to him. Its Zooey Dechanel who really deserves a raspberry though in one of the worst performances I've seen in any film. Early on in the film she cant even say her lines without looking confused and bored. Its not helped by the fact that she gets humdinger's for lines and isn't a very good actress to start with.
The first 10 minutes of this film showed a promising return for a director who is the most notable thing about his films, and after his last 3 pictures he really needed that return to form, but he throws it all away on a ridiculous nature-vs-human plotline that I was scratching my forehead over. The biggest surprise is that he is getting studio backing, surely he must be running out of steam living off his "The Sixth Sense" reputation. I think its time for him to go away and re-group before indulging in any more of these vanity projects.
Summary: An unbelievable film with bad acting.