The Happening; mystery/ thriller, USA, 2008; D: M. Night Shyamalan, S: Mark Whalberg, Zooey Deschanel, Ashlyn Sanchez, John Leguizamo
An unknown force causes people in New York to commit mass suicide. This pattern of behaviour spreads across the US north east, which causes some to speculate that it might be a terrorist attack with an unknown gas. Elliot and Alma, a couple with a troubled marriage, find themselves in the rural area as one of the few survivors, travelling on foot with a little girl. They find refuge in the house of an old lady. The same way as it started, the force suddenly stopped. People speculate it was a defence mechanism of plants, who reacted to the increasingly unstable human pollution of the planet.
The movie that definitely marked a decline in the career of director and screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan, "The Happening" is a heavy handed and sometimes even ridiculous mystery thriller that did not repeat the impressive narrative of his previous achievements with the similar formula, the (overhyped) "Sixth Sense" or the (underhyped) "Signs" and "The Village". Unlike those aforementioned mystery movies that slowly built a sophisticated suspense and had a formula that worked - despite the lamentation of some critics, the plot twist at the end worked every time as Shyamalan's trademark, similarly like Hitchcock's frequent theme of a hero who is falsely accused and has to prove his innocence - "The Happening" is not even cheaply suspenseful simply because no suspense can be created out of the unconvincing ways that people suddenly commit mass suicide: Shyamalan seems as if he has no basic knowledge of biology or psychology at all when he directs humans taking their lives as if they are buying some ice cream (let alone when something is forcing them to do that), since there is no way that a guy would so calmly step into a lion's cage or a woman take a gun to shoot herself in such a bored manner after two guys used that same weapon do blow their heads off just a couple of seconds ago. Not even the ending can truly be considered a 'twist ending' since the story never truly lead viewers to a certain direction. It's a pity because the concept really had some things going for it, especially when they mention the sudden disappearence of bees or the pollution, since the whole movie is unconvincing and silly.