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The Happening June 16, 2008

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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“One film wonder”, “Last nail on Shyamalan’s coffin”, “new material to make Scary Movie 5”, “Someday someone will stop bankrolling Shyamalan’s dumb dreams and keep this kind of tripe from happening”, “If Shyamalan wanted to commit career suicide he couldn’t have chosen a more likely vehicle than this laugh inducing thriller”. Those were just some of the “critical” reactions I picked up from Rottten Tomatoes for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering “The Happening”. If you think these comments are probably true and the same can rightfully be applied to his previous flicks post “The Sixth Sense” then my advice to you – Kindly stay away as this won’t change your opinion either. Stay away too if this is is going to be your first Shyamalan film.

The rest actually are advised to actually watch the film than reading further – not because I am giving away spoilers (there aren’t any actually) but becacuse I feel it might take away some of the fun watching this one. Concept-wise this happens to be the simplest of Shyamalan’s films. One fine day, in New York City something extraordinary happens. People start committing suicide in droves. Medics claim that something in the air has caused flipped the “survival instinct” switch of humans. People are evacuating to safer places and among them are Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and his friend’s daughter. Can they figure out what this plague is and will they be saved from it?

What I loved about this movie are the scares. The ones featuring dead people or people killing themselves are no doubt creepy but it really takes some imagination to spook you out with images of trees swaying in the breeze that too in broad daylight. There are so many little details which enhance the creepiness to great effect. Okay, I admit now that it’s not all that rosy. The characters seem straight out of a horror film – which does bring in some humor in those tense moments…though it looks like it was intentionally meant to be that way. Also, the content of this flick can probably fill out just over an hour. So, the last 20 mins especially the episode with the old lady looks a bit forced into the narrative.

Nothing to write home about the acting except that the star presence of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel helps. James Newton Howard yet again is in top form with Shyamalan and it would not be an understatement to say that this film would have been almost nothing if it weren’t for his score. I actually felt that Shyamalan was paying a hidden tribute to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” here. There are quite a few elements here which resonate with that film. “The Happening” is an extremely simple story effectively told – quite relevant if you think about it. All it demands of you is to sit back and watch and most importantly to stop waiting for some unexpected twist to happen.

P.S. If you were wondering where Shyamalan’s cameo was, read the end cast-credits. Also, in some of the scenes there is some tubelike contraption which keeps appearing on the top of the screen – which was always distracting the audience. I might not have observed before….but is it some deliberate blooper supposed to be Shyamalan’s trademark?