I’ve long hinted at my utter hatred for M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film and I vowed to never see it again. But my friend and writing partner Edward has come to visit me this weekend, and he has never experienced this travesty. He is eager to see why I hate this film so much, and I cannot in good conscience allow him to partake in this journey alone. The two of us will watch this movie together, stopping to comment on whatever needs ruthless and sarcastic mocking. My notes and reactions will be in regular font. I will also once again stress that in my reviews, anything in quotes was actually said in the film.
Ed here, Ryan’s aforementioned writing partner. My notes and reactions will be in italics. I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense and Signs, but have never seen any of Shyamalan’s other films, most of which purportedly suck.
I am anxious to experience the cinematic adventure that is The Happening. Ryan has already introduced me to The Room and Wicker Man, and after thoroughly “enjoying” those films, I am confident that I won’t be disappointed in The Happening.
For those who are unaware, The Happening is a stupid movie where stupid Mark Wahlberg runs from the wind. Basically, plants rebel against humans and force us all to commit suicide because of global warming. His wife, Zoey Deschanel, kind of doesn’t love him and they both take care of their friend’s daughter while her dad goes off and dies. That’s it.
Let’s just do this.
OUR SORROWFUL JOURNEY
Oh boy, here we go!
Shut up, Ed. You have no idea what we’re in for. This movie starts with a bunch of suicides from random people in New York. Barely two minutes in, a bunch of construction workers leap to their deaths from a building. This is where we first had to pause the film because Ed couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
McKenzie just died. Why his face so calm?
After several more suicides we finally cut to our main character, freaking Mark Wahlberg. I have no idea why, but he chose to deliver every single one of his lines as an effeminate question.
“I don’t know if you guys have heard in the New York Times about these honey bees vanishing?”
So many scientific props. So intense. No school has that many!
I concur, that is the most unrealistic aspect of this film.
During this first scene, our main character Mark is established as a teacher. He quizzes his students as to why honey bees around the world may be vanishing, and this is where we meet my second favorite character of the film, Asshole Jake.
Ed, do you have any things you want to add about Asshole Jake?
I think he speaks for himself. Just look at him.
This is where we really get into some of the film’s finer aspects, namely it’s Oscar-worthy dialogue.
Mark: “You’re not interested in what happened to the bees? You should be more interested in science Jake. You know why? Because your face is perfect.”
Mark has managed to act mostly human during this questioning, but as soon as the vice principal comes in, he just turns into a cartoon.
Mark to his HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: “The dark Lord. Don’t look into her eyes. Wooo.”
We cut to Mark’s home, where his wife Zooey is watching the news. They’re explaining…oh jeez. They’re explaining that the autopsies of the suicide people from that morning have already been completed.
This is the first of this film’s many scientific flaws; there is no way you can do an autopsy in a couple hours and determine the cause of death was a natural, airborne toxin.
Why do you do these things to me, Ed?
Marky Mark and his wife Zooey decide to leave Philadelphia with their friend Julian and his daughter. As they speed away from the danger zone…
…we cut to a bunch of motorists and a cop in Philadelphia killing themselves.
That’s a tiny bullet hole.
The trains stop moving because the conductors lost contact with “everyone.”
Why are there so many conductors?!
So a few things here. One, Ed is right. Why are there this many conductors on a train? How many people does it take to keep a train on its track? It’s pretty much self-propelling. This is a tiny train station with one track, there can’t be more than a couple trains parked here. Why are these conductors here?!
I don’t know, man.
Secondly, why would a train need to stop because they lose contact with the outside world. Just follow the tracks! You know you need to get away from the danger zone.
I don’t understand this, Ryan!
It’s a great show, Ed. Anyway, all the train passengers (the conductors conspicuously disappear) head to a local diner to figure things out. Mark’s friend goes to the bathroom, leaving Mark to look after his daughter Jess. This is where things turn from funny to creepy.
“You know that everyone gives off energy, right?”
Great way to break the ice with a small child.
Just have to mention this now. I think the science in this movie is kinda sketchy.
Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. The group realizes the town they’re in is in the dead center of the danger zone.
No more danger zones.
Fine. So all the patrons flee the diner, some more amusingly than others.
Julian at this point abandons his daughter to go die. He decides to go to Princeton to see if his wife is still alive and trusts Zooey with taking care of Jess. But not before he has one last badass line.
“Don’t take my daughter’s hand unless you mean it.”
They had a lot of closeups of him in particular. I don’t know why! He’s not particularly photogenic.
This is when we meet Crazy Hot Dog Guy. And his mustard loving wife. They decide to give our heroes a ride after stopping at home to get some food.
“We’re packing hot dogs for the road. You know hot dogs get a bad rap. They got a cool shape. They got protein. You like hot dogs, right?”
They got a cool shape? That’s ridiculous!
Don’t get upset over everything, Ed. You’ll give yourself an aneurysm.
That’s all you do!
Moving on. Across the state or whatever Julian is riding in a stranger’s car when he spots dead bodies all over. When he realizes there’s a hole in the roof letting the toxins in, people start freaking out. Our bad-ass hero keeps the calm the only way he knows how.
“I’m going to give you a math riddle, okay? And you’re going to tell me the answer.”
Then the car crashes and they all die.
Back with our main group, they spot a lone military jeep driving towards them. We then meet one of the film’s greatest characters, Private Auster. He shall hereafter be referred to as Gomer Pyle.
“Cheese and crackers!”
Private Pyle is the least competent member of the U.S. Armed Forces in history. More and more refugees meet up at this junction in the road, and they decide to stay put for the time being. This finally gives Crazy Hot Dog Guy time to spend with his one true love.
Did he set up a grill we never saw, or is he just eating them raw?
Up until now CHDG has been proclaiming that plants, not terrorists, are behind this attack. Everyone’s been thinking he’s merely crazy, but then he astounds Zooey with some major science.
CHDG: “Trees can communicate with bushes, bushes with grass, and everything in between.”
I get it now.
Now if you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you know I’ve harped on one of the basic tenets of writing: you must avoid repeating words. Hearing the same thing over and over in close proximity just sounds amateurish. Shyamalan decided to consider this rule and then throw it out the window when Private Pyle delivers a scintillating sermon.
Private Pyle: “We’re in the area of attack. If you can’t find a way through the area of attack, we are told to find a safe zone within the area being attacked.”
The sorrowful reaction of aspiring writers everywhere.
At least he tried to vary it up that third time. Pyle continues to bomb his public speaking final.
Private Pyle: “We should go into two groups. Those that are ready to go right now and those that need to get things from their cars. We need to stay in groups!”
Because it takes so long to grab stuff from your car. Idiot.
Inspired by Pyle’s sermon, Zooey decides to give a speech of her own. Why not just confess everything right now?
Zooey: “Okay I was going to tell you, okay. There was this guy, Joey. His name is Joey he’s at work, we went out and we had dessert. I went out and I had dessert with him when I told you I worked late, and I didn’t work late, and I’m feeling really guilty, in case we’re going to die. I just wanted you to know that.”
What the hell are you trying to say?
This is the worst written dialogue I ever heard. Three entire concepts are repeated in a row: going out with Joey, having dessert, and working late. How can you repeat three things in a row? Not to mention you’re dragging a little girl who’s lost both her parents and you’re making your last confessions “in case we’re going to die” right in front of her.
The plants are growing more acrimonious by the second, and they finally reach their breaking point by attacking the larger group who didn’t need to get things from their cars. Led by Private Pyle, they commit suicide. Everyone in Mark’s group, for some reason, turns to him to find a solution to this problem. Mark does not take well to this pressure.
“Why can’t anybody give me a godd*mn second?!”
Mark realizes the plants are spewing toxins into the air even though this has been established like three times.
I want to die.
Finally realizing again what is causing this mayhem, Mark gives the advice that breaks me.
Mark: “Let’s just stay ahead of the wind.”
And I need to take over writing for a sec while Ryan goes on an angry tirade/rampage. As you can imagine, one does not simply stay ahead of the wind. This is not possible. The most dramatic moment of the film happens as the group reacts to Mark’s advice.
They run from the wind you can’t run from the wind!
YOU CAN’T DO THAT IF YOU SEE THE WIND YOU CAN FEEL IT!
And I’m taking over once more. Ryan’s rage is escalating. His fury is enormous.
Fuck it, let’s just finish this. Mark and Zooey have now taken on two new kids in addition to Jess. They all make their way to a model home, where Zooey has a new theory about what’s caused all those people to commit suicide in the field.
Zooey: “It could have been some terrorist booby-trap. Someone stepped on it.”
Because of course terrorists laid a bunch of booby traps in a field in nowhere Pennsylvania. Zooey proves her worth once more when Mark explains that smaller and smaller groups are setting off the attacks; this means they should stay away from populated areas. Zooey responds with:
“Whatever it is: terrorists, a nuclear leak, plants; it’s probably safe to get away from people right now.”
Yeah Zooey, you should stay away from people.
That’s exactly what Mark just said! Glad to know you’re contributing to the group you bug-eyed bitch.
Don’t flip out again.
No! So then we get one of the most famous scenes of the film, Mark Wahlberg asking a plant for mercy.
“I’m just going to talk in a very positive manner, giving off good vibes. We’re just here to use the bathroom and we’re gonna leave. I hope that’s okay. I’m talking to a plastic plant. Still doing it.”
Mark’s effeminate questioning is starting to get on my nerves!
Right. Because up until now, your nerves have been perfectly intact.
As the group leaves this home, we see what is perhaps the most intricate, well-placed, and chilling bit of subtlety in all of cinematic history.
Remember how I said that Asshole Jake was my second favorite character in this movie?
Ay, what’s a guy gotta do to be on top?
This is the point in the movie where one of the kids Mark took on becomes my favorite. He has a real name in the movie I’m sure, but as soon as I saw this guy I called him Kevin.
Seriously, this kid hasn’t even received a name yet, and Ryan right away dubs him Kevin. This movie is getting to him. Who does that? What about his face makes you immediately say “Kevin?”
Kevin has two amazing lines as this group crosses across another field. In the first, he interrogates Mark as to his relationship with Jess.
Kevin: “Is she your kid?
Kevin: “Got kids?”
Kevin: “How come, you got a problem?”
That is just beautiful. When Mark explains that he and Zooey are waiting to have kids, Kevin just keeps laying it on.
Kevin: “You need to take, uh, personal responsibility for yourself in a relationship. That’ll make a difference.”
Unfortunately, Kevin is not long for this world. The gang stumbles across a lone, boarded up house in this field. They ask for help, but the man inside won’t let them in. That might be because Mark’s attempts at proving the group is healthy and sane include randomly bursting into song.
What the hell even is this movie?
Okay. Now I’m starting to get angry too.
When one of the kids starts tearing the door down the man inside kills him and Kevin in one of the most shocking and completely unnecessary movie deaths.
Bye Kevin. And…um, other kid.
As Mark, Jess, and Zooey mourn these two lost lives, the movie switches scenes but keeps its solemn theme.
We get to see a news report about these incidents, which features some of the dumbest science I have ever heard in my life.
“The event should be at its most sensitive tomorrow morning. Typically, these types of slopes drop precipitously after cresting, meaning, uh, it can end suddenly after any moment.“
Okay, I can understand how you get the rising part of the graph; obviously you can tell by now that the attacks are increasing in frequency. But what does that mean “these types of slopes drop precipitously after cresting?”
What type of slopes are you talking about? There has never been an attack like this so you can’t mean this kind of attack, and so far this has been an exponentially increasing slope. That means they keep increasing, not falling! Where are you getting that this will stop?!
Do you want to add anything about this Ed, you Mr. Science?!
This doesn’t even merit a response from me. M Night Shyamalan is basically slapping science in the face. I’m ending it there.
I’m running out of calm here, so let’s steamroll through the rest of this. The three survivors traipse across another field and what do they find? Another house! But this one’s different, because it has Miss fricking Jones to deal with.
“Why are you eyeing my lemon drink?”
Lemon Jones is a crazy old woman who, as Zooey describes, has something “exorcisty-y about her.” Lemon is utterly convinced that Mark is going to steal her things and murder her in her sleep.
“Plan on murdering me in my sleep?”
Then, like everyone else in this movie, she dies. But not before yelling at Mark with what I can only describe as rage incarnate.
I now see a resemblance between Ryan and the movie.
Lemon storms off in a huff, but she gets taken out by the wind.
It’s gettin’ windy up in here.
And so begins the final segment of this film. Mark barricades himself in the house. He searches for Jess and Zooey, but they’ve been exploring the nearby shed. This shed has a tube that carries sound perfectly to the house because of slavery (seriously…just watch the movie) so Mark and Zooey reminisce while waiting for death.
Then comes the dumbest thing in this movie. Mark decides that if he’s going to die (which I should stress is not a certainty, they are boarded up in a house) then he wants to die with his wife. So he steps outside to walk over to the shed.
This will make our family happy.
Then, Zooey Deschanel proves once and for all that she is a horrible person and would be a terrible mother to this girl. She drags Jess out of the shed and meets Mark in the middle of the field.
Why are you trying to kill me?
But the plants’ attack has suddenly ended, and all three survive because of magic. In case anyone in the audience is a complete idiot, Mark sums this up in a completely pointless voiceover flanked by extensive silence.
Mark: “The event must have ended before we went out there.”
Thanks, Mark. Six months later Mark and Zooey have repaired their marriage, they have adopted Jess, and are preparing to have a child of their own.
Then it’s revealed that another attack is happening in France.
Of course this is the last line of the movie.
This movie destroyed me.
Well, I hope you’re happy Ryan. Thanks to you, I’ve been thrust into mortal peril and have spent the entire day watching this movie and helping you complete this blog post. 🙂
This movie is awful. You can try to enjoy it as a bad film, but for me personally it just fills me with dangerous rage.
The Happening gets 8 / 10 Cages – Laughably Awful