The Happening (2008)

The sequel: ‘The Happened’. The prequel: ‘The Gonna Happen’. The behind-the-scenes documentary: ‘What’s Happening’. The film-goer’s response: ‘Did that seriously just happen’.

This picture should look familiar. And, man, I can’t tell which movie’s founding concept was utilized worse.

It isn’t that the entire concept is even that good, but it could have at least tried to redeem the price of admission by being entertaining. You know, maybe it could have had some credible dialogue or some believable acting. Anywhere. Maybe they could have bothered to make any tiny little part of the entire movie make sense. Instead, we got nothing. Nothing. This, is, apparently, what the scraps left over from a rigorous bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping session look like.

I’ve avoided the last few M. Night Shyamalan movies on purpose (Signs being the most recent I’d seen), and am quite happy to not have watched that gradual decline in quality if they led to this garbage. At least Signs had some great characters that lent a serious air of believability to a very silly concept. But when I heard the new low Shyamalan had reached with The Happening, I just had to see it for myself.

The concept isn’t great, but if it toned itself down a bit it could have been fun. My summer allergies have flared up recently, so I would have understood watching a killer pollen at work. But we get a 100% lethal “toxin” that the weather insists upon blowing towards human presences (The tree-controlled legions of electric fans didn’t make it into the Byting Reviews picture, but yes – apparently every facet of nature was joined together in harmony to try and kill people in one specific part of the world). And it isn’t even poisonous – this airborne toxin doesn’t kill anyone outright. It makes people kill themselves, but apparently you’d be pretty safe if you locked yourself into a good set of soft restraints. The people with access to rooftops, cars, and guns are less lucky.

As an aside, that boom mic is a tribute to a frequent thorn in the sides of M. Night moviegoers (Ranging back at least to The Village) – apparently, Shyamalan uses some uncommon framing style that theater projectionists don’t realize they need to frame differently than other movies. So your odds on seeing frequent boom mic shots at your own theater’s showing depends on the competence of your projectionist (Which, yeah, is that guy who is more concerned with selling you a bigger bag of popcorn thanks to the theater management) and if anyone’s complained about it yet. I couldn’t see a boom mic anywhere, because my theater had the film set up properly. Too bad, I’d have laughed harder otherwise. The internet informs me that this phenomenon is not a rare fluke (And my brother saw it for himself), so into the comic it goes.

It’s astonishing how wrong every assumption this movie makes is (From the crazy, unmourned and undisputed replacement of a girl’s parents with Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel right on up to the conclusion that killer plants will make humans treat plants better. Sorry, I saw too many plant-loving tree-huggers die to swallow that one). One of the major proving points is that, at the beginning of the movie, the main character (A science teacher) teaches his class that sometimes things just happen in nature that can never be explained. The movie is an incomprehensible mess. There isn’t a single piece of good dialogue.

If I had to show you a single scene from the movie to get you to understand what’s wrong with the movie, I’d show you the one where the protagonists are running across a field, trying to get away from the wind while ripples of blowing grass creep closer and closer. That must have been a bitch to set up or add with CG, and it was all for nothing because the very idea is so fucking retarded. How did people keep from laughing in Shyamalan’s face when he described that scene? “Ok, so, get this, I need enough wind to blow the grass over, really flatten it out, and that visual effect needs to creep up slowly on Wahlberg while he runs away across a field. Not a breeze, now! WIND. I need it to look WINDY, or else people won’t get that there are toxins in the air that can somehow be brought to Wahlberg through the air. But don’t bring the wind up on Wahlberg too fast! We have to make it feel like maybe he’ll outrun it.”

Terrible. The film has no resolution, no payoff, no peak of intensity, no crescendo… truly, this is a movie that is just there, as the title implies. The only thing the movie successfully does is hit us over the head with references to humanity’s crappiness. It may be rated R, but this movie is not scary or disturbing in the slightest. Nor is there any gore, save for a couple of “red mist” moments, pooled blood, and someone with glass shards stuck in their head. Whoops, that last one might count as “gore”; I was mighty bored and pissed by that point in the movie so it didn’t really stand out as anything special.


  1. You didnt get to see THE MIC? It was the best character IMO. Totally believable in its role. Love the eyes on Zooey! Hahaha perfect.You didn’t mention the ‘creepy’ old lady. I’ll go ahead and say that she was just fucking bizzare and I am so glad the trees got her (to get herself).Oh and did you notice same lady talked about the speaking tube running to the place they used to HIDE people? The big freakin bath house behind the main house… wtf, how could you hide somewhere in there? Why not just say the speaking tube was a pipe? Or did I miss something? Hotdogs.


  2. Haha, that weird old lady was the funniest character. I CAN HEAR YOU WHISPERING! YOU’RE GOING TO ROB ME! And the fact that Mark and Zooey just act like maybe they aren’t <>understanding<> her properly (Or maybe she’s just misunderstood <>them<>) doesn’t help the movie. Wahlberg was not exactly born to play the “incredulous, dismayed weenie” role, which is especially funny because the role was specifically written with him in mind (If Shyamalan is to be believed). And I don’t think Zooey strained anything trying to pull off her “vapid, 2-dimensional love interest with ‘problems'” role.Their characters don’t behave realistically at any moment. I love how they decided to hang out for a few more minutes on the “abandoned” house’s porch after the people inside shot both of the kids with them in the head. Or the boggling “dessert” revelation, or the constant “let’s head deeper into the wilderness to escape Nature’s wrath” ‘plot’ device. And the train conductors lose contact “with everyone”, shortly before that ridiculous-looking lion video is sent to one of the passenger’s iPhones (Which is, of course, something iPhones don’t support) and despite the fact that the rest of the world is in good shape.We can just keep going on and on, because there is NOTHING in the movie that is not terrible.


  3. There is ONE thing.The big win, so to speak, for Mr M. (night whatsit):The movie is Rated R!Huzzah! It is curious that that they just closed the doors and windows in the old lady’s house and were fine. So many curious / infuriating details. It sees the 6th Sense was teh fluke?…although truth be told I did like Unbreakable, Signs and even Lady in the Water (Giamatti made the movie).


  4. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time or money to see this. 😛 I watched like the first twenty minutes of Lady in the Water and turned it off… I have liked all of the preceeding M. Night movies though, from 6th Sense through The Village. But then, I’m a girl and the love story in The Village is tremendous. Of course, that’s not what was hyped about the movie, and lots of people understandably hated it.Ahem. Anyway…


  5. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The movie was so bad. I didn’t care for Lady in the Water either. Love 6th Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village (my fav of them all and yes, I LOVE the love story in it, JH!). Have to say that each of those films had very strong, compelling main characters (Haley Joe Osmet, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard -though there is such a great cast in this movie and they are all great characters). This tree hugger movie did not. Mark W. was so blah, mayonnaise, flavorless, etc. As were most of the charactors/actors in this whole film. The script was pathetic/disconnected/plot deprived/I could go on but I’ll stop myself. Just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.Rant over…. I think.


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