Complete A-Z list

Happening, The


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Robert Bailey Jr, Frank Collison, Jeremy Strong, Alan Ruck, Victoria Clark

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Obviously it would be a miracle if M Night Shyamalan had managed to come up with another movie even half as good as his classic The Sixth Sense. No such miracle has occurred. His subsequent films have vividly proved the law of diminishing returns although it would have taken an Oscar-worthy clairvoyant to predict he would (or even could) make a film that is worse than Lady in the Water and which also patently and sadly unmasks Shyamalan as a one-trick pony.

Sadder still, the sheer awfulness of The Happening reveals the luckless filmmaker has been thrown off that pony. Perhaps he struck his head as he fell. That might just be an explanation of why he continued to make the movie in spite of his truly terrible screenplay. Presumably he continued with it because, improbably, a major studio had actually green-lit it, was paying for its production and then would be brave (or foolhardy) enough to expose it to the unsuspecting public. (Critics deserve what they get – dire movies are the downside of the job).

To be fair (which is really difficult after having had to suffer through The Happening) Shyamalan’s direction is efficient enough without being interesting, although he fails to raise anything like an interesting performance from his principals who remain uninteresting ciphers throughout, as they try and escape the something in the air that is causing people first to freeze in their tracks and then to kill themselves and others.

And what is that ‘something in the air’? Is it terrorists? Could it be radiation? Is it germ warfare? Or have plants turned nasty and released something that catalyses extreme behaviour in humans? Personally, my money’s on the latter: why else would Shyamalan fill the screen with fields of corn? If that isn’t a directorial hint at subtext, what is?

Shyamalan might just have got away with this uninvolving would be fantasy thriller in a half-hour Twilight Zone episode although even then the show would have dragged badly. Here, bloated out to a seriously silly, eminently uninvolving and increasingly tedious 91 minutes, the film simply lies down on the screen, curls up and dies. Mourners are likely to be very few, if any.

(And no flowers at the funeral, please - just in case)

Alan Frank

USA 2008. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jun 2008