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Review: The Happening (Movie) - CaffieneKittySpace
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Review: The Happening (Movie)
A Public Service Announcement regarding 'The Happening'

I saw this movie, figuring if I didn't see it tonight, I would pick up the entire plot by osmosis over the weekend and any big surprise plot elements would be spoiled.

**Contains detailed spoilers for the movie.**

The Happening... doesn't. Or at least it won't be happening any more now in theatres than it will be in several months when it shows up at the video store.

It's rambly and given the frequent death and end of the world stuff going on, it should have been tense as hell. It wasn't. Or at least not as much as it could have been. There was all of one jump moment for me, and that was a loud noise. There's some creative scenes of people offing themselves, but if you go to movies for that sort of moment, you will find them few and far between.

The acting: Hm. The kid was pretty believable, I think. The two main adults had quite a few "Sorry... what am I doing now?" out-of-character subtext moments that I'm inclined to blame the director for. Not that I'm a fan of either of the actors, it just seemed like they were acting in a state of confusion about what their characters were supposed to be doing and to me that says the director wasn't providing sufficient direction.

Short Recap: A teacher is pulled from environmentally significant science lesson about bees dying and told that school is being dismissed because of a "Happening" which authorities thing might be a terrorist attack. People are randomly commiting suicide. Effect is centered in progressively smaller and smaller population centers, starting in parks. People flee cities, effect starts happening in smaller towns. Theory is floated by kind of crackpot characters (sort of plant-worshipping couple that only eats hotdogs? I missed a bit there) that the plants have adapted to protect themselves from the walking environmental disaster that is mankind and are emitting something that's messing with people's heads. Protagonists flee with assorted eventual corpses in smaller and smaller groups, still operating on the plant-phermone theory. They come across an old lady (who's a bit on the freaky side) in the woods cut off from society. After some odd stuff with the old lady (during which I formulate the theory that it's not the plants, it's just people getting so depressed with how screwed the world is they suddenly decide to off themselves, and that by coming to the woman's place and informing her of events in the outside world, they've made her susceptible to it now, but whatever) the effect happens to her, and protagonists end up huddled together alone waiting to kill themselves... and then everything's back to normal. No big reveal, no real twist or surprise, just okay, it's over now. If the earlier parts of the movie had been as tense as they should have been, that might have worked. As it was it felt a bit "ho hum, here we are, waiting 'til the plants tell us to kill ourselves" to "ho hum, off to school you go, little niece". And then it starts again in another country. (Admittedly, the background people all freezing in place at the same time as the foreground person was cool.)

Death list, not in order, not complete: Multiple deaths by falling from building, single car collision with tree, wrist slashing, many many shootings, one kind of grimly cool (and probably intended to be thematically significant but I was too busy wondering where they'd got all the rope) scene where a bunch of people were hanging in trees, guy getting (very cheesily) ripped apart by caged lions, guy lying down in front of a ride-on lawnmower, woman ramming her head into the walls and windows of a house... Probably many I'm forgetting. Lot of mostly depressing death, not a whole lot of gore. Most of these seen in the promos.

What's 'Happening' really?: Suicide pollen, as theorized. Maybe. The plants want people dead so they stop messing up the environment, so they've adapted this nebulously explained phermone-something that makes people stop talking and then kill themselves. Or something. It's not concretely stated except by the character who has been noted previously as a possible nutbag, and implied in the "happening" starting in countries other than the US at the end in stereotypical "Leave it open for a sequel" horror movie style. That's what I got from it anyway, the soundtrack was very muddy.

I was snickering inappropriately through the latter half of the movie, with all the "The plants are out to get us" stuff, and the protagonist nervously talking to a potted plant that I believe turned out to be fake. Oh, also the wind that sprang up anytime they needed something to run from, or someone mentioned the plants. How would the plants cause a wind? That's the way it seemed sometimes anyway. "Uh oh. Humans are on to us, time to make wind. *whoosh*"

In the end it's a kind of soapboxy muddled environmental statement of some sort which probably doesn't even succeed in motivating anyone to take an action because the presentation is so darn ... meh.

Anyway, that's my opinion. I think I probably would have liked it okay as a one hour episode on something like the "Outer Limits" or "Fear Itself" or as a movie of the week (AKA something I didn't have to pay to see), but as the first movie theatre movie I've seen since last fall, it kind of sucked, and not in a fun 'go see it to mock it' way. A tepid, bland sort of suck which left me not liking it, but not caring enough to hate it. Just a very large meh.

Summary: Don't shell out to see this in a theatre; you will likely be disappointed.

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Current Mood: blah blah
Current Music: "Carrot Juice is Murder" ~ Arrogant Worms

19 comments or Leave a comment
charis_kalos From: charis_kalos Date: June 15th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the Public Service Announcement. Will not be spending the hard-earned on this, then. Hmm, what do I want to go and see ...
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
The only movie I've heard good things about that's in theatres right now is Iron Man. Haven't seen it yet, because it's not a spoiler-level dependant movie for me. :-)
charis_kalos From: charis_kalos Date: June 15th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I saw Iron Man, nervously because my fangirlishness extends to comics and I like the character, and I really enjoyed it. Well worth seeing in a cinema.
ficwriter1966 From: ficwriter1966 Date: June 15th, 2008 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, BUMMER. The trailer was good, and I was excited about this. M. Knight, man, what's happened to you? Did you have all of ONE good movie in you? Have you been worshipping at the knee of George Lucas, who also thinks he can do everything gloriously all by himself, when he...can't? Dude! Work with somebody! Kripke admits that left on his own, he comes up with shite. Listen to HIM.

Arrrrggghhhh. But thanks for the tip. Gonna save my $9 now. Which makes me sigh. Every time I think something's worth going out to see, it's...not.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's also frustrating is I watch his movies in full "pick up clues" mode to try and figure out what the 'twist' or whatever is going to be, and this time there wasn't really a twist. "Sixth Sense" caught me by surprise, so did 'Unbreakable' mostly. "The Village" I had figured out before the opening credits were done, but that was still interesting because it became not about figuring out what was going on, but about watching the characters who weren't in on it. That and I liked the setting and the 'mythology' set-up.

I don't know much about M. Knight, but yeah, if he's doing it all by himself, he needs some backup to at least bounce ideas off of. This movie was a bit of a shambles.
ficwriter1966 From: ficwriter1966 Date: June 15th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's writer/producer/director. I think he's got some good concepts, but he needs somebody to help him along, make it better, make it scarier, smooth out the rough spots. Lucas I think is much the same - he's a great concept man, but when he tries to do everything himself (which he can, because he's got all the money) it just turns into a hideous, overdone mess.

I liked "The Village," too, mostly because of Bryce Howard. "The Sign" was pretty good (very scary in spots) but the whole "water kills aliens" thing was ludicrous.

I'm so desperate for good movies that I bought "Finding Nemo" and "A Bug's Life" today. Is that what the bottom line is, now? You want a good movie, go animated? *sighs*
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 16th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh lordy, "Signs". I'd forgotten about that one. It was creepy in spots. I remembered the baseball bat more than the water, I'm not sure why.

Is that what the bottom line is, now? You want a good movie, go animated? *sighs*

Well, with animated family and kid movies from big North American studios, you have a fairly good chance of it running true to one given formula or another. It's not as much of an entertainment risk, I guess.

I've been working my way slowly through the TV series Deadwood, and I have a box of stuff I've gotten out of the previously viewed bin at the local video store but haven't had time to watch yet. Latest addition to the box is "3:10 to Yuma" which I've heard good things about.
anniehow From: anniehow Date: June 15th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, thanks. I was suspicious of it anyway, and the trailer made me raise a questioning brow. But, you know, this is the dude that gave us aliens that are killed by water and invade Earth. I wonder what they thought that blue stuff they saw from space that covers 80% of the suface was. He could have gone with any other liquid they didn't need to know much about. Like milk. Or Coke. Coke's corrosive, he could have *argh!* Shutting up now.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! Yeah Coke could take out a lot of monsters. And the movie would have a bigger budget because of the massive pile of product placement money they'd get. :-)
kriptkeeper From: kriptkeeper Date: June 15th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I always like to know what the secret is in his movies before I see them - I couldn't watch Signs or The Village until my brothers spoiled them for me. Not that I'll be going to see this one, though I might rent it for lulz when it comes out on video!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
It does have some unintentionally amusing things, and a lot of death scenes.
wynterwolf47 From: wynterwolf47 Date: June 15th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, that's a shame. I like a good spooky thriller, but I have come to suspect that M. Night Shyamalan has one storytelling trick, and he's already used it to it's best effect.

It would be different if he were good are creating unique characters, because then you could take the same trick but the characters would still be able to make the story interesting, but he doesn't do that. Oh well.

Thanks for the PSA!! And as for movies I would highly recommend... Iron Man. **nods**
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
It almost manages spooky a couple times. Thrilling, not so much, not to me anyways. The characters... yeah, "not unique" is a safe description of M. Night characters. :-)

I'm waiting for video for Iron Man. I watched this movie now because usually my enjoyment of his movies depends on me being completely unspoiled for them. Iron Man, not so much. :-)
(Deleted comment)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 15th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's disappointing, and it could have easily been so much better. It's frustrating.
malevolent73 From: malevolent73 Date: June 16th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't go to the movies very often so I'm glad I know not to waste my one movie per year on this. :) I really want to see Iron Man anyway! LOL

caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 16th, 2008 05:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm probably going to wait for DVD to see Iron Man. I like having a pause button, and zoom. :-)
astrothsknot From: astrothsknot Date: June 16th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Night Shalamayan cannae make a mess, niver mind a hale film. A hink he makes up aw his stories when his pished or sleepin. Cis naen ey theym make ony sense erwise.

Ah awa tae see Incredible Hulk. bairn's no happy, but he wisnae happy aboot haein tae go an see Iron Man and he loved it.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: June 17th, 2008 05:55 am (UTC) (Link)
*smishes your accent... leet?* ;-)

A hink he makes up aw his stories when his pished or sleepin.

That would explain a great deal about his more recent ones. I liked his early ones, but I like 'twist' endings and trying to figure things out from clues that sometimes aren't even there.

Ah awa tae see Incredible Hulk. bairn's no happy, but he wisnae happy aboot haein tae go an see Iron Man and he loved it.

There's been some good reports about it. Doubt I'll ever see it, but supposedly it's good. :-)
19 comments or Leave a comment