Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley
A critic’s take: “The performances, too, are weirdly stunted: normally reliable actors like Mark Wahlberg, John Leguizamo, and Zooey Deschanel—playing, respectively, a science teacher, a math teacher, and a worried wife, all fleeing the leafy threat—stalk through the action with a mixture of grimaces, goofiness, and what I charitably read as indigestion rather than catatonia. To be honest, I would be perfectly happy to walk with a zombie after ninety minutes of this; it would feel like light relief.” - Anthony Lane (The New Yorker)
Why it’s bad (meaning good): Widely regarded as M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film, The Happening is great because it’s legitimately trying to be a good movie. With a plot surrounding plants causing human beings to kill themselves without explanation, that’s an incredible proposition.
Mark Wahlberg’s face remains in a constant state of confusion, as if he’s trying to figure out what in the world he’s doing in this movie right along with the rest of us. Zooey Deschanel spends 90 percent of her screen time gazing off into the distance. A man lies down and lets a piece of farm equipment run over him, and it might be the funniest scene in the movie. That’s not great for something billing itself as a horror flick.
There’s a scene featuring Wahlberg giving a young girl a mood ring, telling her that it turned yellow because she’s about to laugh, which she does, which is then immediately followed by a woman showing Wahlberg a video on her phone of a man being mauled by a lion. IT’S INCREDIBLE.
So what’s really happening here? Greatness. That’s what’s happening.