The Story: M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” looks an airborne toxin that causes people to inexplicably kill themselves. Starting off in New York City it causes a science teacher (Mark Wahlberg), his distance wife (Zooey Deschanel) and their friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his young daughter to flee only to be stranded later on. As they attempt to figure out what’s going on they will have to band together in order to survive as the mysterious “happening” picks them off one by one.
Pros: I didn’t want to believe all the terrible things that had been said about this movie. Sure “Lady in the Water” was the biggest piece of garbage to grace the screen but nothing could be worse than that, right? In watching the DVD there were a few highlights, but only a few. The violence in this is definitely R-rating worthy and gore hounds will go nuts. There are great scenes of a guy feeding himself to a lion, and another guy getting chomped by a tank. There are other more disturbing scenes of people hanging themselves, slitting their wrists and a highly disturbing death scene with children that will leave you more than chilled. If Shyamalan wanted to prove his horror movie chops he did so in abundance here. The only actor I can praise with some hesitation is Leguizamo as Julian. He doesn’t get much screen time but he seems to be the only actor who isn’t reading off cue cards. His delivery isn’t stilted and his scenes with his daughter prove that he has significant dramatic chops brewing under the surface.
Cons: The entire movie is nothing short of terrible! The plot is just ridiculous and the delivery is all over the place. You never know if Shyamalan is taking the plot seriously or throwing in something light to make you laugh, maybe because I laughed throughout the entire film. The acting is also a huge downgrade for the director who has gotten amazing performances from actors like Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis. Wahlberg is sorely miscast as science teacher Eliot Moore. Every line is a question and if it isn’t Wahlberg is asking it like a question. He has two key faces and they’re constantly repeated. It’s almost like the actor doesn’t know what the material is about. Normally flawless Zooey Deschanel is also miscast as the adrift Alma, Eliot’s wife. She’s constantly looking lost, whether intentional or not, and her dialogue is nothing short of disastrous. Some of the plot points in this movie will be lampooned for years and it’s sad because Shyamalan did have a somewhat unique premise.
DVD Features: Some of the DVD extras save the terrible film. There are a few deleted scenes that are simply extended cuts or character plot points that the director was wise in removing. Some of the scenes just screamed unnecessary and it almost proved the director was just throwing things into the movie. “The Hard Cut” is a look at Shyamalan’s decision to make the film R-rated. He focuses on the death scene with the children and goes into a great discussion on how the studio forced him to make an R-rated film which makes you wonder if this was just Shyamalan’s way at saying to the studio he should have been left alone. It’s a great look at the studio system overall. “I Hear You Whispering” is a featurette on actress Betty Buckley and her role as the crazy old woman Mrs. Jones. Her character seemed pointless in the film but this featurette is great to watch to see how the director wanted her character to come across. It gives some insight into a sorely underused plot point. “Visions of the Happening” is a stand making-of featurette with cast and crew interviews. The cast seems to really believe in this movie which makes it all the worse to watch the final product, nothing new here. “A Day for a Night” is a seven minute feature showing Shyamalan directing a scene. It’s great to watch to see a director in his element but I thought it was a bit boring. “Elements of a Scene” is a standard making of a scene showing a car crash pre and post CGI. CGI fans will enjoy the look at how it was created. There is also a gag reel showing the cast mess up lines and what-not although the whole movie could constitute as a gag reel and there are a few redundant trailers.
Overall: I didn’t have high hopes for “The Happening” and this DVD tries to salvage the weak film with a few interesting featurettes but it didn’t wash the bad taste of the movie out of my mouth. I give the movie a 1/5 and the DVD a 2/5 for the effort.