Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Happening (2008)

Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg): [to house plant] Hello. My name is Elliot Moore. I'm just going to talk in a very positive manner, giving off good vibes. We're just here to use the bathroom, and we're just going to leave. I hope that's okay.
[Elliot touches leaf]
Elliot Moore: Plastic. I'm talking to a plastic plant. I'm still doing it.

At a glance: M Night Shyamalan adds his usual offbeat and out-of-context moments of humor in a horror story that is as lightweight and inconsequential as the wispy wind that carries it

People are suddenly compelled en masse to commit suicide, creatively using whatever implements are currently at hand (a just used gun, a lawn mower, their own car). Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), Alma (Zooey Deschanel), and Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) are on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the evil wind that carries the airborne disease, which may be terrorist-created, or may have been launched by plants as a revenge for the way mankind has ravaged the earth. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is a little like the Woody Allen of horror and offbeat; his movies are always watchable because of their originality, but his recent efforts have been below par. The Happening is perhaps a notch above Lady in the Water - it has many nice moments of almost Hitchcockian style - but it lacks anything of real import happening on the screen, and stills forms a formidable trio of sub-par efforts that began with The Village. Here’s hoping Shyamalan can get inspired (and can continue to get financial backing) long enough to get back to the level of his first 3 efforts (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs). Rating: 2.25 of 4

"The M Night brilliance is there in quick jolts of suspense and terror, but those moments are the exception in this otherwise flat little thriller."
- Lori Hoffman (Atlantic City Weekly)

"Sadly for Mr. Shyamalan, the ideas that have been coming to him since his brilliant first hit The Sixth Sense are progressively worthy of less merit and more deserving of ridicule."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

"Usually Shyamalan can hide his limitations as a screenwriter behind his skill as a director. Here, that skill fails him as well, and the whole movie falls apart."
- Michael Dance (The Cinema Source)

"[A]n astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined."
- Christopher Orr (New Republic)

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