By CAINE GARDNER
To say that "the Happening' was a letdown would be an understatement. The movie starts with promise, but quickly turns into an incoherent series of events that culminates in an ending that is far from fulfilling.
A neurotoxin of unknown origin descends on people in Central Park and quickly makes its way through a good portion of the American Northeast. People who are affected go through three stages, in quick secession and ultimately take their own lives in a matter of minutes. Will it continue or will is cease? That is the basic premise of the flick and if director M. Night Shyamalan had stuck to that things would have been deliciously scary. Unfortunately, a character study of a fractured marriage is added to the mix and the whole movie struggles to include it and falls short because of it.
It's clear from the beginning that the environment will play some part in the film. There's the talk of the disappearance of honey bees, a quote from Einstein and the line from a pretty boy student regarding the bees, but pertinent to the events in New York."(It's) an act of nature and we'll never fully understand it," the student keenly observes.
This epiphany is quickly backed up by a hot dog crazed botanist and Elliot (mark Wahlberg), but it takes quite a leap of faith to buy into it. They also learn another fact that helps keep them alive and kicking so they can stretch an hour idea into 90 minutes.
The scenes where they are trying to outrun the wind are definitely a suspense builder as the grasses fold hot on their heels. The scenes with an ultra-grief-stricken Mrs. Jones are creepier than anything in the movie.
Visually the movie delivers some eerie and sometimes frightening images, such as bodies raining from the sky and an encounter with a not-so-docile feline. The landscape of the film is beautiful.
I don't normally comment on the ending of a film, but I'm seeing a disturbing trend in Hollywood and it infuriates me. Overall I liked the movie as a B-movie homage, but the tidy ending that Hollywood continues to deliver is tiresome. I want the unexpected. I want the not so nice ending. I want what I've been promise.
Wahlberg delivers an understated performance in the flick and has some moments where he really shines. His everyman likeability serves him well. For me, it was zooey Deschanel (Alma Moore) who was a real disappointment. Her usual quirkiness is present, but she has very few scenes where she shows what she's capable of. Some of her expressions are more horrific than anything the movie has to offer. I would have liked to have seen more from her, but alas I did not.
I'm not going to throw everything on the actors, though. Shyamalan's script, while having a great seed of an idea, has forced dialog at points during the film. There were also some camera angle choices that I still can't figure out what he was going for. Maybe that was the idea.
Shyamalan is no doubt a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the suspense genre and it's clear that the man absolutely loves what he's doing. Despite the perception of being in a slump, it's just a matter of time before he slams viewers in the chest like he did with the 'Sixth Sense' and moviegoers hoist him back on his pedestal. It seems like he has the ax raised high, but he's afraid to let it slam down. Maybe the powers that be are staying his hand.
The DVD has some really cool extras including deleted scenes, a gag reel (which stinks) and some neat featurettes. One of the deleted scenes involving Elliot and Alma and a fight they had to being the movie. It really would have helped show the evolution of Wahlberg's character and why John Leguizamo lashes out at her when she attempts to take the hand of Jesse.
Final Cut: 'The Happening' doesn't live up to expectations, but offers up a unique idea that causes the viewer to think -- a little. Shyamalan is a suspense master in the making, but his reliance on old tricks stifles his vision.
2.5 out of 4 stars
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Run time: 91 min.
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Bonus Features
* The Hard Cut
* I Hear You Whispering
* A Day for Night
* Element of a Scene
* Visions of The Happening
* Deleted Scenes with intro from director M. Night Shyamalan
* Gag reel
Also check out: www.bannergraphic.com/blogs/cainegardner/entry/21285/