By Ryan Parsons | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Poor M. Night Shyamalan. After giving us The Sixth Sense he has yet to create a film that lives up to that type of er, stature. I loved Unbreakable, but every film after seemed like a downhill slide. We get it - there's going to be some sort of twist at the end. With The Happening Shyamalan is trying something different. The film is rated R, for one, and it looks like the surprise at the end will be that there is no surprise at the end. Capiche?
The Happening Reviewed
Two of the first official reviews have surfaced for The Happening and neither is pretty. Let us continue that slide, shall we?
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.
M. Night Shyamalan's breakout hit, "The Sixth Sense," achieved just the right balance of creepiness, horror, supernatural thrills and pop psychology. The writer-director has been chasing those elusive qualities ever since, sometimes down intriguing sci-fi backstreets ("Signs") but more often down blind alleys ("Lady in the Water").
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.
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