Review of Shyamalan’s “The Happening”

The Happening is possibly the worst movie I’ve seen in years, and I’m just desperate to find some inkling of redeeming value in Shyamalan’s mess. But I can’t. Just a collection of loose thoughts that may help somebody else also trying to justify to themselves their rationale for sitting through this movie:

  • There is the promise — ultimately undelivered — of thematic coherence between the honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (raised in the opening scene by the science teacher Elliot Moore and underscored in the early part of the movie by the constant vibrating cell phones, an echo of a bee’s buzz). But no link is ever made between CCD and the waves of suicidal compulsions that strike humans on the East Coast. And if a link were made, it might not necessarily work. Are the bees supposed to be a foreshadowing of a human colony collapse? Is the same neurotoxin responsible? Why would plants want to kill bees? Or is CCD the motivation for the plants killing humans? In revenge for killing off the world’s bees? What a mess.
  • Unnecessarily gruesome. I’ve heard this is supposed to be a horror movie as opposed to a suspense thriller. Shyamalan should stick to thrillers. He must think the only difference between horror films and suspense thrillers is the level of goriness. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
  • Zooey Deschanel cannot act. Period. No debating this one. And why are the women so helpless? They can’t even operate a radio without a man’s help. Or is the idea of helpless women supposed to be an homage to the horror genre? It’s ridiculous either way.

OKay, I’m already spending way too much time on this. The film stole 90 minutes of my life the other night, no reason for it to suck up any more.

6 thoughts on “Review of Shyamalan’s “The Happening””

  1. Unlike other bad films, this one has a legacy –a kind of ptsd that forces us to ruminate  on the badness when we should be able to just let go.

    The Fall, Mark, The Fall.  It has healing power.

  2. Shyamalan said on NPR that he was aiming to create a B movie. That’s pretty much what it was. The movie’s cinematography pretty directly recalls some B movie horror classics and the style is also derivative of some of the older B horror movies. 

    When I went into the movie, it was knowing that I was going to see a campy horror movie, except with high production values (like Grindhouse, for example). Unfortunately, the media hyped it up as something else completely and a lot of people went in expecting something else and came out disappointed. 

    The movie was for a very specific niche audience, but no one told the rest of the movie going world.

  3. @ Aram ZS:

    I can appreciate Shyamalan’s goal to make a B movie — and I can even see some of the shots that recall horror classics. But I still think Shyamalan missed his mark.

    The problem with paying tribute to an older “low brow” movie genre (e.g. a Western or horror flick) is that a director can either do a smart, self-aware film that challenges and even makes fun of the genre’s conventions (the Scream movies do this); or the director can do an over-the-top film, over-saturated with elements of the original genre (Quentin Tarantino is good at this).

    It’s very difficult to make a straightforward B movie that hits the notes of the original genre without turning into satire or camp. Todd Haynes did a fantastic job with Far from Heaven, a film that doesn’t descend into satire or camp, but remains exactly what the original genre was, a touching melodrama. Shyamalan tried to do it with The Happening and it just didn’t work. There is such a thing as a good B movie. I don’t think The Happening is it. Neither satirical nor campy, it’s just a bad B movie.

  4. This movie was frickin unbearable.  I would understand the B movie argument if the previews didn’t make it out to be something completely different than what it was.  When I saw it on opening night, some people walked out, and others laughed the whole time. It was ridiculous. No one likes Shyamalan’s work anymore, and everyone agrees that his stuff has totally gone down the sh*tter.  I think that if I ever have children, I will punish them when they misbehave by making them watch this whole movie over and over without blinking.

    If he wants to be credible again, he should go back to the formulas he used for films like Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs.  (I even thought the Village was 3490583450x better than this excuse for a movie or Lady in the Water). I just think the B movie argument is inapplicable in this case because that message was never conveyed in any way to people like myself or Mark Sample before seeing the movie.

    And another thing, now that I think about it…It is COMPLETELY unfair and dishonest to have a resume with good movies such as Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, etc. –> have previews for a movie that completely make it out to be a serious, interesting thriller along the same lines as the previous good ones –> and then have the movie itself be complete different bullshit!!! That is so unfair!! Imagine if your favorite rock band, whose first three CDs you absolutely loved, was going to hold a concert.  The concert was advertised as being more of the same good old stuff that you love about the band, and then they came out and played ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ and ‘Old McDonald’ Motown style.  Wouldn’t you be a little pissed?Wouldn’t you feel cheated?? Wouldn’t you want your money back? 


    Never before have I wanted $9.50/90 minutes of my life back so much.


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