The Happening (2008)

Director:  M. Night Shyamalan
Cast:  Mark WahlbergZooey DeschanelJohn Leguizamo
Plot:  A paranoid thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity.

Genre:  Drama / Mystery /Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  91min
Rating:  PG for violent and disturbing images.


For the majority, after viewing The Happening, they will probably wonder what is really happening to M. Night Shyamalan. For the other few who are genuine supporters of the director's work, they will appreciate what he is driving at. I happen to be in the minority though I concede The Happening is not Shyamalan's best effort thus far. 

After being Oscar-nominated for the sensational supernatural drama The Sixth Sense, the unique writer-director from India followed up with satisfying thrillers with a twist such as Unbreakable and Signs. The Village and Lady In the Water were not well-received by critics though they are unmistakably Shyamalanian.

The Happening meets my expectations despite appalling reviews. That does not mean my taste of cinema sucks. It merely means that I'm more accommodating to the way Shyamalan writes his screenplay and directs his picture. In short, I'm a fan of his style. 

Playing to the tune of the threat of environmental problems to humanity, The Happening is unlike epic disaster pictures like The Day After Tomorrow. It works on a smaller scale and through a different approach. Here we don't witness humanity being wiped out by huge waves or ice storms. Instead we see people turning against themselves; committing suicide through the most horrible ways possible.

The PG rating for The Happening is a wrong call by the Singapore Board of Film Censors. We see limbs get torn apart and plenty of gore to easily earn an NC16 rating. There are also a few disturbing scenes that might probably give younger viewers nightmares. 

On a more pleasant note, Mark Wahlberg sheds his bad guy image to portray a good-natured science teacher who tries to make sense of everything. It's not the best performance by him, but it doesn't do harm to his stop-start career as an actor. The supporting cast delivers for most parts, though it's tough to shine in a film like The Happening.

There are trademark shock moments that define Shyamalan's pictures. Though his capacity to create suspense has diminished slightly, it's still an effective chiller. The Happening takes time to build itself; the slow pacing might be a bane, and the conclusion could have easily been the introduction, but overlook its flaws, and some will find Shyamalan's work quite thought-provoking. Even then, most will feel that Shyamalan is a one-hit wonder trying to revive his past glory.


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