'The Happening' Review By slysnide

It's happening. No, not an alien invasion, a botanist convention.
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
Remember the hype for this film? Given that it was M. Night Shyamalan's first 'R' rated film? Well, attaining that rating was a cheap shot through a couple moments where the camera typically pulls away. But that was basically the only thing which brought fans to the box office. Unless of course--like me--they didn't at all mind ANY of Night's previous films. However, I too skipped this. For those who still find it intriguing, then you've been warned.

So basically, rather than Armageddon by meteor, asteroid, ice age, alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, 12/21/2012, the Return of Christ, or any score of natural disasters, it's just...plants. Non-Toxic plants which have magically acquired fatally toxic pheromones to wipe out humanity to save themselves from being further destroyed a la deforestation like the Amazon. But no, these aren't "Audrey II" type plants, they're just your average everyday kind. Yet no matter how cinematographer Tak Fujimoto shoots them, he fails at making sedentary plants scary.

The group of survivors--if you'd call them that--are school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Whalberg), his estranged wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), his best friend and colleague Julian (John Leguizamo), and Julian's daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). They flee Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania plains where they have varying encounters of frantic, yet sometimes helpful people, like a Nursery owner (Frank Collison) and his wife (Victoria Clark) who believe plants are responsible for the events. Or in other words, the "head for the hills" characters who are overly typical to the genre--albeit, their advice is a bit different than that.

To his credit, Night convinces the audience early on that the entirety of the film won't consist of people fleeing from plants. Rather the first forty minutes unfolds just like you'd expect an apocalyptic film to unfold when thrown immediately into the events. Hence, the real danger and suspense are the group's attempts to seek shelter in the plains. The best of such attempts being their stay with the paranoid shut in Mrs. Jones (Betty Buckley), who's completely unaware of the disaster. Actually she's an extremely intimidating elderly woman who can pull a gun on you as quickly as give you a heart attack from catching you off guard. This was by far the most suspenseful part of the film, and considering the events up to that point, then that's unfortunately saying a lot.

Overall, the cinematography of the landscape was beautiful, but the implications of what it meant ruined it. The lack of lasting danger did as well. For while the plants are constantly on the prowl, they're obviously not scary. And considering that the survivors flee the city for the plant infested wilderness, then the movie logic applied to explain their ability to survive even lacks sorely for those who still think Night had a good concept going. For while it sounds interesting for a botany class, it truly doesn't play as a suspenseful thriller as Night intended it to be.

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Comments (33)

  1. Worth5Bucks

    im so glad i never saw this movie lol

    4 years agoby @mattbierwagenFlag

  2. slysnide

    There are so many movies classified in the wrong genre. "The Twilight Saga"--the whole damn thing; "Friday the 13th & Halloween Remake(s)." I could go on forever. And that's sad.

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  3. moviegeek

    @Supes hahaha. Your comment about the wind in the grass cracked me up.

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  4. Dan

    @Moviegeek That's what I was saying! It's a great comedy. It's classified as the wrong genre.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  5. moviegeek

    I hated this movie with a passion, but genuinely wanted to watch it again right after it finished, except with a comedic mindset instead. Good short review.

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag


    Great review. Man, did this movie suck.

    4 years agoby @the-screenwriterFlag

  7. slysnide

    @Dave: The monsters aren't real, and it isn't 1897. Rather the village elders all endured hardships in the cities and a rich oil tycoon funded an amish paradise that covers as a nature preserve. They dress up as monsters to keep the villagers away from the real world, constantly stipulating falsehoods about the towns which come from their personal perspectives on their experiences. Except when the blind chick discovers this and is attacked by a monster in the woods, rather than being of the original monster legends the fake monsters were based on, it was just her mentally handicapped friend Adrian Brody who got a costume, and died. Had it not had Shyamalan's name atop it (given his rep at the time) then it woulda been passable for most. I actually liked it, as I firgured it'd be impossible to live up to the ad campaigns. :P

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  8. Daveactor7

    @Movie lol what was the twist in the village again? I forgot

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  9. MovieFreak97

    @Diaigma Believe it or not, this IS better than Airbender

    4 years agoby @moviefreak97Flag

  10. MovieFreak97

    @Sly Devil is pretty good, not great but good. I personally think Signs is Shyamalan's best, then The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, I like the Village as well. Minus the twist

    4 years agoby @moviefreak97Flag

  11. slysnide

    @Diaigma: My two previous comments were all beaten by their answers seconds before I posted them. Grr! lolz

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  12. Diaigma

    No worries, man :P

    Hmm . . . Dammit Dave . . . it has a ring to it. Nickname! :D

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  13. Daveactor7

    @Diaigma lol sorry!

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  14. Diaigma

    Dammit, @Dave - you beat me again! :P

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  15. Diaigma

    The Airbender series has 3 books (seasons), but the movie did start out with "Book 1: Water" after the (ultra sucky/weak) prologue. I'd recommend you watch them if you haven't already. Best animated series that I've ever seen (and from an animation buff, that's say'n something ;)

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  16. slysnide

    @Diaigma: I knew Supes was referencing something other than "Night Chronicles." I just threw that out there in reference to Night needing to return to his "Unbreakable" roots. And thanks for explaining that "Airbender" was Book 1.

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  17. Daveactor7

    @Sly In the television series, it is separated into books. Kind of like seasons basically. Shyamalan did book one and boy he did terribly.

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  18. slysnide

    @Diaigma: Was the "Airbender" called 'Book 1,' or this some other project I don't know about?

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  19. Diaigma

    I think @Supes meant book 2 of Airbender, @Sly.

    They are lucky to recoup their loses, man. It barely doubled it's budget world wide. I know I won't see a book 2 from this group of people, and so will half the audience for Airbender, I bet. It needs to be forgotten as soon as possible so it can have a reboot in 10 years or so. It certainly deserves better treatment than it got.

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  20. slysnide

    @Diaigma: Thanks. My revised quote is a reference to the outrageous amount of responses of "this can never happen" by botanists after the film came out. A double mock as a film so poor couldn't fathomably get enough critical attention for so many botanists to respond, like when "2012" came out they were Mayan Historians. :P

    @Supes: The 3rd installment of his "Night Chronicles" trilogy will be based on the unplanned sequel for "Unbreakable." However, being unplanned, then I can't see how it was intended as a sequel unless it's a typo on behalf of the writer who meant to write something like the 'unpanned' sequel in terms of it not panning out.

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  21. Daveactor7

    @Supes not happening lol

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  22. Dan

    There wasn't any word that he was given the greenlight for Book 2, was there? I'll personally hunt that motherf*cker down if that happens. Still upset over that...

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  23. Diaigma

    I thought Unbreakable was his best, personally.

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  24. Dan

    Well, I take that back. Unbreakable was good, too. He needs to either return to those roots, or stop making movies.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  25. Diaigma

    Your revised tagline is better :P

    Yeah . . . I didn't bother to see this one. I should have kept that going. I have a hard time believing that THIS was better than Airbender. Ugh! Anyway, great review, @Sly - short and sweet.

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  26. slysnide

    Good choice Dave, good choice.

    @Supes: And my "Not at all..." comment was obviously in reference to your rhetorical question. :P

    Oh yeah, I changed my ratings. :P

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  27. Dan

    M. Night has got a lot of making up to do, his previous 3 movies have all sucked ass, hardcore. Either that, or he really was a one hit wonder that is just obnoxiously hyped.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  28. Daveactor7

    Fantastic review :) I did not care to even see this film

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  29. slysnide

    @Supes: hahaha. Not all man, not at all. I was actually thinking of pointing out that the latino guy is axed first, being typical of the genre if you don't have a black guy. But why cry over spilled milk? :P

    @MovieFreak: Totally agree about the trailer. Twas a damn shame this turned out this way. Though I heard "Devil" (2010) was somewhat good, which Night produced.

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  30. Dan

    "If we stand still in this grassy area, we'll be okay"....'wind picks up towards them'...."Run!"..... lmao. This movie had me laughing so much it was so horrible. Great comedy.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag