Trade Reviews for Shyamalan’s The Happening

Hey, how cool is this, that I can now type Shymalan without having to look it up? Yes, folks, I’m mighty proud of myself. Anyhoo. We’ve already heard from fanboys and anonymous movie reviewers take pop shots at M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” (his first R-rated movie, as the film’s trailers like to trumpet, as if that should make it, you know, really great or something), now what do the big boys aka the guys who actually get paid for it have to say about “The Happening”? Here are Variety and The Hollywood Reporter’s take on the film.

First up, Variety‘s Justin Chang:

One might charitably describe “The Happening” as a transitional work for M. Night Shyamalan. In an attempted rebound from the critical and commercial calamity of “Lady in the Water,” the writer-director has scaled back most of his characteristic touches — the contorted horror/fantasy mythology, the “gotcha” twist ending, even his trademark cameo — instead serving up a patchy, uninspired eco-thriller whose R rating (a first for Shyamalan) looks more like a B.O. hindrance than an artistic boon. After an initial bloom of interest, the Fox release will likely wilt quickly in the summer heat.

Not so good. And yes, pay attention to the “eco-thriller” in the review excerpt. There’s a reason the film was originally called “The Green Effect”. Stupid trees.

Here’s the Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt with their take:

In “The Happening,” he manages to recapture some of those elements, particularly the creepiness and supernatural thrills. But the central menace — an airborne neurotoxin that causes mass suicides in the northeastern U.S. — doesn’t pan out as any kind of Friday night entertainment. The movie seems more like a ’50s science fiction film of extreme paranoia or an episode of “The Twilight Zone” that even at a swiftly paced 90 minutes feels padded.

And look, they even spoil the film’s surprise for you!

Everyone winds up in the Pennsylvania countryside. The science teacher decides, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that the toxins are generated by plants and trees and are airborne, so every breath of air, every flutter of tall grass or rush of wind causes hearts to stop.

Besides that, they also predict early doom for “The Happening”.

Better luck next time, M. Night.

The Happening