Someone has to say it.
(Actually, quite a few people--critics and moviegoers alike--have said it, and more are saying it every day.)
Still, I feel compelled to say it, too:
The Happening (2008) is horrible (and not in a good way).
Note to director Shyamalan (or is that Shambling?): The use of your middle name (“Night’) in lieu of your first name is not enough to make a movie scary. You need a plot. And characters. And a little atmosphere. And some scary scenes. And a worthwhile theme.
The Happening has none of these basic elements of the successful horror movie. Instead, it is a simple-minded, self-parodying example of how not to make a scary movie.
The movie begins with random acts of violence: in Central Park, people start clawing at themselves, and one young woman--a blonde, naturally--uses a screwdriver or something to poke a hole through the side of her neck and let a little blood out of her jugular vein; construction workers jump off the roof of a high-rise they’re building; individuals use a police officer’s revolver to shoot themselves (suicide by cop). Supposedly, it’s a terrorist attack on the Big Apple, but it’s really plants.
Or something worse (i. e., even stinkier).
The protagonist, a high school science teacher, escapes with his wife (she admits to two-timing him by having dessert with a coworker without clearing it with hubby ahead of time), the math teacher, and the math teacher’s cute-as-a-button-I’m-only-in-this-putrid-movie-to-help-wrench-your-heart little girl, after surmising that whatever the hell is going on is going on only in the northeastern corner of the United States. Ninety miles away, all is well.
Every time the plants conspire (telepathically?), the wind blows, and it’s kind of cool to watch the grass run and the trees writhe, but it’s not scary. What’s scary about the wind blowing, even hard, through a field of treetops? Not much.
At the end, after being trapped inside a woman’s house, the surviving science teacher, his almost-unfaithful, will-do-anything-for-dessert wife, and their math teacher’s daughter (the math teacher is one of the early victims of the plants’ attack) go outdoors to discover that the vegetation is no longer mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
However, it’s France’s turn next, apparently.
Adjectives that come to mind in describing The Happening:
--and those are the kinder ones.
Worst scene in the whole movie? The science teacher trying to apologize to a plant. (The fact that it turns out to be plastic was supposed to make this lame scene irresistibly funny instead of just plain stupid [but it didn't]). Discounting these problems, one might conclude, as Mark Twain did concerning "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," what remains is "pure art."
About the only good thing about The Happening is that it's so bad that it may forestall future politically correct diatribes about how we're ruining the environment.
Not recommended, even for a matinee.