The Happening (2008)

Yesterday, I said to myself, hey, let’s go see a movie! And then I looked up times, but the dollar movie I want to see (even though I found a second dollar theater, and right across the highway, not far away like that other one (where “far” in this case equals about 1/3 of my daily commute. Help.)) was only showing in the evening, and I already had evening plans. So then I poked around at what was out in general, and settled on The Happening. And then I saw it, which just goes to show you the value of a plan.

The movie itself was an odd mix of satisfying and cheeseball. I went in knowing nothing beyond what I’d seen in a couple of previews, which as it happens is sufficiently little to make the thing work; I have to assume that without the mysteriousness pulling you in, the satisfaction would have been nowhere to be found. The premise is straightforward: one day in Central Park, people start acting mentally and physically confused, and then they start dying. And those scenes which open the movie? Creepy as all get out, I tell you. Next thing, a teacher and his wife and some friends are headed out of town because of their concern over the TV-reported terrorist attacks that have just occurred, and the film turns into about one-third mysterious deadly event and two-thirds marital drama. Or maybe fifty-fifty? I was never annoyed that the scary mystery part had vanished, and the drama part was pretty decently done.

Unfortunately, this was billed as M. Night Shyamalan’s first R-rated movie. I call this unfortunate because, aside from a ridiculous chase scene about which I cannot divulge more that would otherwise assist me in mocking its ridiculousness, the biggest problem the flick had was its focus on gore. It just wasn’t the right kind of movie, in mood, to be concerned with over-the-top death scenes; and there were a few. It’s like M. was just trying too hard, to no good effect. Well, the acting was a little iffy, too, which is odd, because I’ve seen both leads do far better jobs elsewhere. All in all, though, it was a decent, scary movie. It was not the best movie I saw yesterday, which is kind of funny when you consider I had only planned to see the one. But anyway, just don’t go in expecting Shyamalan’s previous brilliance, and you should be fine.

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