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"The Happening"

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo and Ashlyn Sanchez.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  6/17/08


Here's how I will sum up "The Happening", a film by director M. Night Shyamalan that I think closes the book on whether or not the guy is good, great, terrible, or an absolute piece of shit:  wow, this is at least doubly shitastic as his last film, "Lady in the Water", a movie that was awful in ways you almost can't believe.

Additional evidence that helps sum up how bad "The Happening" is:

After we learn that some strange wind-blown virus is making people stop in place, go completely insane, then find a way to kill themselves, a Philadelphia-based teacher named Julian (John Leguizamo) decides it would be a good idea to drive directly into the heart of this thing by risking his life to save his wife, who is in Princeton, NJ.  Note that when he decides to do this, he has decided to leave his daughter--who is essentially already down a mom, and about to be down a dad, too--in the hands of a science teacher named Elliot (Mark Wahlberg).  Back to Julian...he is riding in a Jeep with four other people who have decided to find loved ones somewhere in New Jersey.  After driving through a street littered with dead people affected by the virus, the people in the car realize they have to seal the windows in order to ensure that the virus doesn't get in.  (Never mind the fact that the Jeep has air vents, which would have certainly already let the poisoned air in...whatever.)

After the passengers seal the windows, Julian looks up and notices that there is a slit in the cloth ceiling of the Jeep...he realizes they are all doomed.  Cut to a shot outside the vehicle of the Jeep stopping...then, in a rush, the driver (contaminated by this point and set on killing himself) goes full bore into a tree, shooting both himself and someone in the BACK SEAT out the front window.  Then, we see Julian--who was riding shotgun the whole time and somehow DID NOT get ejected out the front window--calmly get out of the Jeep, walk back into the street, lay down on the ground, and pick up pieces of glass and begin to cut his wrists with said glass.  We fade out, assuming he is about to die.

This sequence sums up "The Happening" so well because it makes you see all of the massive problems with this film:

  • The logic is routinely awful.  I stopped trying to understand how the "phenomenon" could be working, because it makes almost no sense at all.  It's also fun to try and understand how people go mute, then crazy, then smart enough to, I don't know, operate a riding mower to mow in a semi-circle and to lay down right in the path of the mower.  (You will be howling when you see this sequence, trust me.)

  • The acting is as bad as any Hollywood release this summer.  Maybe you credit a guy for giving locals a shot at being in a major film...maybe you look at him and then slap him across the face for being such a fucking idiot.  Also, note to casting directors--Zooey Deschanel started out as a bad actress and is getting WORSE.

  • The film is incredibly violent for a movie of this type.  It's almost like Shyamalan wanted to prove to someone he could be senselessly bloody; usually, you don't see a teenager's head blown off by a shotgun or old people ramming themselves through a window multiple times in the movies.  Here, you do.

"The Happening"--following Shyamalan's efforts on both "Lady in the Water" and "The Village", a terrible film in its own right--has made me see the light with this guy; we have to now admit that "The Sixth Sense" was pure, blind luck.  How else can we explain it?  Remember, "The Sixth Sense" literally was nominated for six Oscars INCLUDING Best Picture.  He even got some of his actors nominated in that film, and he even got Bruce Willis to appear like he was acting, too!  "Unbreakable" wasn't bad--relying, again, on a surprise ending--and "Signs" was actually, at times, very good.  Then he went down the bad path that has led him to today, and his last three films have really been bad.

In fact, I made a suggestion to a friend yesterday about this recent effort--watch "The Sixth Sense" then immediately watch "The Happening" is shocking to see how far the director has fallen.  Otherwise, avoid this new one in theaters, even if someone offers to buy your ticket!!!

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09