The Happening M. Night Shyamalan

The Happening M. Night Shyamalan
When his twist-turning debut The Sixth Sense made him Hollywood’s most talked about new director, M. Night Shyamalan looked set for a flourishing career of jaw-dropping thrillers. But ever since the buzz killing ending of 2002’s alien attack/baseball flick Signs, the director has had a career downswing.

His last two films, The Village and Lady in the Water, are often name-dropped as two of the most inconceivably awful movies in the last decade. However, I’d also like to make a case for The Happening.

Shyamalan opens in Central Park, where an ordinary day all of a sudden comes to a crashing halt with a strong breeze leaves everyone in a catatonic state, with a desire to commit suicide. Word spreads of a "terrorist attack” and quickly high school science teacher Eliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), who just so happen to be in the middle of a marriage funk, join the flock and flee Philadelphia for the safety of the country. Little do they realise that the wind’s taste for causing self-inflicted suicide extends all the way across North-eastern America — it has no boundaries!

Can you outrun the vengeance of nature? It’s a question Shyamalan asks the viewer, going so far as to leave the audience with a televised discussion between scientists about our environment’s defence mechanisms against our careless destruction of it, though not without smearing the final scene with precious old school Hollywood goo.

The Happening is an unexplainable, scratch-your-head-until-it-bleeds puzzle. It’s fantastically obtuse in virtually every manner, suggesting Shyamalan was aiming to break out of his usual "what a twist!” routine in exchange for B-movie hilarity without telling anyone his plans. Both Wahlberg and Deschanel are at their career worst, lacking any chemistry whatsoever while playing the survival cards without a convincing line, mannerism or response that proves they’re actually threatened.

But it’s hard not to pin this entirely on the writer/director/producer, who, it appears, demanded nothing from his cast. And why should he have? The script is essentially one extended shot of people either offing themselves in the most extremely gratuitous circumstances (see the lawnmower man or the zookeeper pestering a den of lions for maximum disbelief) or trying to escape from a gentle wind (no, not a tornado), which to this day has only ever killed a nice coif. Yes, that is how ridiculous The Happening is. (Fox)