Den of Geek’s Craig Lines wrote a long, very well thought out article about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, that points out many things about how he sees the film. He takes a deeper look at the movie than most of us have. Admittedly, it’s the only Shyamalan film that I don’t own, and I’ve only seen it once, opening weekend in the theater. It made me very uncomfortable, so it did its’ job, but that isn’t something I want to go through again. I highly recommend reading Den of Geek’s article, the start of it, here:
Was The Happening the disaster everyone remembers? Or was it just fatally misunderstood? One man makes a case for the latter…
For a while there, M Night Shyamalan was Hollywood’s golden child. A modern-day auteur who blurred the lines between populist and arty, cult and mainstream, genre and straight drama to great acclaim. Yet now, almost everything published about him talks of his critical fall from grace. It’s like parts of the industry see him as an embarrassing uncle at a wedding who’s still invited out of courtesy but is inevitably going to make a fool out of himself if you let him near the camera…
Sure, there’s an argument to be made that Shyamalan has had a couple of misfires but when people start referring to “embarrassing flops like The Happening” I have to draw a line. I personally consider The Happening as one of the best Hollywood movies of the last decade and, by some distance, the most misunderstood. It is, without question, Shyamalan’s masterpiece. So I’m setting the record straight.
If you’ve not seen it, Mark Wahlberg stars as Elliott Moore, a science teacher who must make his way safely across Pennsylvania when a suspected terrorist attack causes people to commit suicide en masse. The radio suggests it’s an airbourne toxin. Shelter from it appears nigh on impossible. Suspense abounds, right? Wellllll….
Perhaps much of the problem with how this film was received lies with the audience’s expectations. The Happening was pitched as a return to form for Shyamalan. It was Action Mark Wahlberg in an apocalypse survival movie that the poster claimed was a “nailbitingly ferocious thriller”. This was going to be something we could all get our heads around and enjoy. The trailer was fast-cut, all images of hysterical people fleeing in confusion from an unknown terrorist threat. Marky Mark was gonna save America! Yeah! You wouldn’t be an idiot if you went in expecting a Roland Emmerich style disaster thriller.
What you get, however, is the exact opposite.