Shyamalan's self-proclaimed attempt at the best B-movie of all-time is another miss. One day in Central Park people begin doing inexplicably freaky things--wandering backwards, mumbling, and killing themselves. This phenomenon spreads across the Northeast and into Philadelphia, where high school teacher Elliot Moore (Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Deschanel) pick up the kids and try to flee before they're next. It looks great, and it's jam-packed with suspense, but the payoff pales compared to any good episode of "The Twilight Zone."
Occasionally, certain movies inspire so much critical debate that it's necessary to have more than one critic weigh in on the issue. Keeping that in mind, we here at MovieRetriever invited two of our editors to weigh in on the new M. Night Shyamalan thriller, The Happening, which hits theatres ...Read More
Don't read this if you haven't seen The Happening, and plan to.
It is notable that a post 9-11 horror film like this doesn't get any flack for being irresponsible or premature. Sometime in the past couple of years, we entered a new era. It is safe to entertain ourselves again by being scared of attacks on urban areas.
There are inspired moments in this film that invoke the tension that Shyamalan is aiming for. The opening is strong. The people jumping off the building is horrifying. But many of the other moments of death tip over into the comical.
And the moments between deaths are pretty slack.
Anytime the suicides in this film got too calculated, it became implausible for me. How can someone in a state of numb confusion operate complex machinery in order to do themselves in? This would have been a completely different movie if the victims were acting in alert desperation rather than the slow, robotic way it is played out in the film. The violent moments are horrifying, but I could never shake the sense that the people were already dead by the time their bodies go through their violent motions. The way crowds go completely still as the "event" overtakes them IS very haunting, but I would rather the film didn't take the victims so far away from consciousness.
Another awkwardness in the film is the problem of how to show people killing themselves at enough of a remove from the main characters that we did not question why the main characters weren't overcome too. I eventually assumed that nothing was going to happen to them since the film wasn't giving me much of an indication of where the boundaries of the danger was. The music may tell me that they just had a close call, but I have no other way of knowing how close it was. I suppose that is part of the point, but it drained some of the tension for me instead of heightening it.