The Happening

At no point does any image this interesting appear during The Crappening

Director: M Night Shyamalan (2008)
Starring: Marky Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Funniest comedy of the year. Except for the bits which are meant to be funny, which aren’t. Basically, people start to go nuts for no apparent reason, and commit suicide in increasingly hilarious ways (yes, I laughed when the dude ran himself over with the lawnmower). Think 28 Days Later, Steven King’s Cell or The Signal, except more self-destructive. And stupid. Yes, this movie is stupider than the (incredibly stupid) latter stages of Cell.

M. Night Shyamalan, who was once a director of decent films, brings you his first R-rated effort. Some say The Happening is surprisingly good. Some say that Shyamalan’s gone darker, more cynical in his world view. This is because some those same people have lowered their expectations to subterranean levels. The Happening is, without a doubt, one of the worst movies to come out this year. It is the worst movie on Shyamalan’s CV (yes, worse than the one about the village and the one about the fish lady). It is also the funniest spoof movie since Scary Movie… in fact, if he’d given roles to Leslie Nielsen and maybe Charlie Sheen, then you’d have Scary Movie 5.

So people start killing themselves (I was in tears of laughter as construction workers started flinging themselves off’ve rooftops) and fearful survivors try to flee the city. We follow Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo (plus child) as they try to escape before going the way of the lemming.

At first glance, the cast seems serviceable enough. Wahlberg and Deschanel are usually watchable, at least, while Leguizamo can make even a movie about CGI animals bearable, if not fun. Here, however, they are all universally appalling. Marky Mark delivers a career-low performance, making one wonder how on Earth he got himself nominated for an Oscar. Deschanel, meanwhile, seems to be on a different planet throughout. Although she’d have to be stoned to have read the script and thought it a good idea. Leguizamo, finally, is on autopilot. For the little time he’s onscreen, he looks as if he’s calling in his performance from the set of Ice Age 3, whilst wishing he was in a decent film… like Land of the Dead (which has its detractors, but is infinitely better than this).

Although you can’t blame the actors. They do the best they can with such an atrocious script. Well, no, they don’t… but it’s hard to feel real animosity towards anyone mentally deficient enough to read The Happening and think it was a good idea.

It’s hard to pick out the worst parts of Shyamalan’s self-penned script. Certainly, Wahlberg’s reaction to the deaths of his travelling companions is particularly laughable (“oh no”, delivered with all the dramatic power of someone who’s spilt coffee). Shyamalan mustn’t get out much, because his depiction of real people is achingly awful.

But the lows of the acting and the script are nothing compared to the plot itself. Basically, the trees are behind it all. Yeah, you read that right, the trees (or, more accurately, nature) are killing people by making them commit suicide. I’d like to say that this is a good concept in theory, but it isn’t. It just smacks of cheese and corn. Corny cheesiness. It also leads to scenes of our heroes running from the wind and talking to potted plants. Yup, Mark Wahlberg gets out-acted by a potted plant. And a plastic one, at that.

Incidentally, the potted plant scene was supposed to be intentionally funny, or so I’m told. Unfortunately, I found it genuinely hard to tell, due to the inherent hilariousness of the whole concept. Evil plants are harder to buy into than Mel Gibson not playing an anti-Semite. I really think Shyamalan should have gone the whole hog and just had walking trees (ala Lord of the Rings) beating the crap out of Wahlberg for two hours.

Other moments of “humour” fall flat too. There’s a hippy type talking about how much he loves hotdogs, and a scene where Marky Mark diatribes about buying medicine he didn’t really need. Without a doubt, the funniest part was a car crash that’d occurred about half an hour ago. Interestingly enough, that’s a pretty decent metaphor for the movie and for Shyamalan’s career in general.

If you only watch one movie about killer plants (in your whole lifetime) then I wholeheartedly recommend The Happening: aka Little Shop of Horrors 2. At the very least, it’s a better spoof horror movie than the Scary Movies.


  1. Right on, sugar tits. What this movie needed was some aliens, some Jesus and some more Mel Gibson. Shyamalan has lost his mojo, man. And I think the Jews stole it.

  2. OH NOES. My agent is so fucking fired.