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New Review: The Happening

June 15, 2008

There are spoilers throughout the review – so be careful!

In M. Night Shyamalan’s world, we get the chance to see what happens when mother nature gives us a taste of our own medicine, and with a vengeance. The effect of The Happening is creepy but I left feeling only as if I’d been entertained, not blown away like most of his other films. Still, my adoration of his color usage remains. This movie had the color yellow as the dominant theme, perhaps as a symbol of fear or impurities. Most likely because this was a cautionary tale of what could happen if we keep destroying our planet, it can turn things around and destroy us.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel as a mismatched married couple. Walhberg’s character, Elliot, is a science teacher, and so is able to better explain what is happening. Like all of Shyamalan’s films, there are hints through the beginning to lead you to the end of the film, but this time it is so overly foreshadowed that I didn’t have the suspense built up as usually occurs in his movies. Still, there are some highly tense moments that are both disturbing and suspenseful and provide good reason for the “R” rating.

Whatever is happening is causing humans to kill themselves in three steps. First is disorientation in language, then physical impairment then the step that leads to death. The various ways in which this is shown are stunning, from the first scene in Central Park to Philadelphia. But the most disturbing is the construction scene where men begin flying off the building. Being that the scene is in New York, it had shades of the World Trade Center during 9/11 written all over it. However, it goes too far when people begin feeding themselves to lions at the zoo. It was unnecessary.

Another disturbing effect is that Shyamalan goes full force in who he kills off. Where other directors may have cut scenes and alluded to children’s deaths, he shows it in somewhat satisfyingly in in-depth scenes. Most disturbing is the effect on those locked inside homes and how their paranoia and self preservation lends them to do horrid things (you have to see).

Still, I felt cheated out of a Shyamalan adventure. It was as if the lack of commercial success of Lady In The Water led him to bend his style to better suit a general audience. For that, I am saddened. It was a watered down version of his typical suspense film. And I left with an unclear message. Should I plant trees and love Mother Nature or pull my yard up by its roots to self-preserve? Confused.

However, his choice to leave the main characters certain of their death at the end was great. It led them to rekindle their love and to realize that family was the only important thing. But then, they don’t die and the moment is sort of lost. The ending didn’t have the impact that Shyamalan is so cleverly known for. If the plot twist was that they lived, I feel cheated.

Still, it is Shyamalan and he leaves his visual mark and for that it is worth a viewing or two. Oh, and watch for one of my new favorites, Jeremy Strong, in a small role as Private Auster. Strong recently played Peter in Humboldt County, Danny Jacobs and Darren Grodsky’s lovely independent film. I can’t wait to see what’s next for him.

The Happening is rated “R” and with good reason for countless violent deaths. It’s playing now at the Malco in Oxford.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2008 12:05 am

    He’s my favorite director, and I really left the theatre disappointed. I felt that Shyamalan lost the art of filmmaking in this one. It’s as if he got lazy. On two seperate occasions, I was even able to see the boom, not only in the frame, but actually moving back and forth to get the actors dialogue. Very sloppy! As for the story, it just kind of ended, and I wasn’t really sure what I had just watched.

  2. June 24, 2008 12:34 am

    Well, I hate to say it, I was not thrilled. LOL !
    I’m sorry ! My best friend loved it, you loved it,
    and even Roger Ebert loved it. Me… Eh.
    Of course there are some good things that
    can be said, (it was far from a bomb) and
    your review covers those notable points
    magnificently !!!

  3. June 17, 2008 9:44 pm

    I dunno..I feel sort of like the love focus is what killed it..but I know that Shyamalan is big on human emotional response and how they evolve in times of crisis..so i get it..Just wasn’t my thing.

  4. June 16, 2008 12:27 am

    Well done ! I’m really looking forward to seeing this
    now. Maybe tomorrow ! I’m a fan of all of his films,
    (with the possible exception of “Lady in the Water”).
    I think they should have turned the pool filter on and
    sucked that NERF (Or whatever she was) back to Never-Never Land. LOL !!!

  5. Matt permalink
    June 15, 2008 10:59 pm

    nice review, although personally i think the whole story behind this film is ridiculous. I must see it thought before i make judgments..

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