Bad Happens: M. Night Shyamalan used to be a pretty good suspense spinner. He knew how to make a movie that was enjoyable, riveting and made the viewer need to see it again to figure out exactly what was missed the first time. That was true of his first movie The Sixth Sense. Since then, it's all been downhill. Don't get me wrong, he's had some pretty good films since his first one and his new one, The Happening (R). The pretty good ones are Signs and The Village; the not so good ones are Unbreakable, Lady In The Water and the latest movie pretending to be scary but is really a hand-me-down dressed political statement.
In The Happening, something is causing people to act irrationally and take their own lives. Among the scenes of people doing themselves in is an eerie scene of construction workers jumping from a building to their deaths...in NYC no less. Yes, that Shyamalan knows how to play with our emotions but he doesn't know how to keep it up. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel as Elliot and Alma Moore. Elliot, a science teacher decides to pack up Alma and his best friend Julian, played by John Leguizamo, and head out of Philadelphia to a smaller town when it appears the big cities are being hit by the mysterious plague.
Of course, being a movie in which characters are on the run, there have to be children and Elliot and Alma get stuck with Julian's daughter when Julian decides to try and find his wife. The fim does feature some pretty graphic, if not silly, scenes of death. Ok, I'll admit some of them are just plain silly and it sometimes seems as if Shyamalan is trying to tap into his inner Stephen King. Keep tapping, M. Night, you're not even close.
There is something to the premise of what is causing the plague but it's not enough and it's way too obvious what M. Night is trying to say. All of the happenings occur in the Northeast and then soon just stop. As the film closes, things begin to happen again; this time someplace different and if at that point you haven't figured out what the statement is, maybe you should go work in a factory.
M. Night needs to go back to the drawing board, get back to his roots and make another movie that totally grabs us from the beginning and doesn't let go until the end when we realize...Ahha, of course, how clever. This one barely grabs one by the hand.
Bags of popcorn (out of 5): 1.5