The Happening

2008

The Happening

Critics Consensus

The Happening begins with promise, but unfortunately descends into an incoherent and unconvincing trifle.

18%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 178

24%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 370,089
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Movie Info

"The Happening" is a lightning-paced, heart-pounding paranoid thriller about a family on the run from an inexplicable and unstoppable event that threatens not only humankind, but the most basic human instinct of them all--survival.

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Cast

Mark Wahlberg
as Elliot Moore
Zooey Deschanel
as Alma Moore
Betty Buckley
as Mrs. Jones
Frank Collison
as Nursery Owner
Jeremy Strong
as Private Auster
Alan Ruck
as Principal
Victoria Clark
as Nursery Owner's Wife
Alison Folland
as Woman Reading on Bench with Hair Pin
Kristen Connolly
as Woman Reading on Bench
Cornell Womack
as Construction Foreman
Curtis L. McClarin
as Construction Crew Member
Derege Harding
as Train Conductor
Kerry O'Malley
as Woman On Cell Phone
Shayna Levine
as Teenage Girl in Jeep
Stéphane Debac
as French Bicyclist
Cyrille Thouvenin
as French Bicyclist's Friend
Babita Hariani
as Medical Correspondent
Alicia Taylor
as U.S. Reporter
Edward James Hyland
as Professor Kendall Wallace
Armand Schultz
as Talk Show Host
Sophia Burke
as Student Named Laura
Alex Van Kooy
as Boy in Class
Charlie Saxton
as Student Named Dylan
Kathy Hart
as Vice Principal
Lisa Gunn
as Teacher In Auditorium
Rick Foster
as Railway Police Officer
Marc H. Glick
as P.A. System Conductor
Don Castro
as Philadelphia Police Officer
Bill Chemerka
as Taxi Driver Sal
Jann Ellis
as Older Woma with Dog
Jan Ellis
as Older Woman with Dog
Mary Ellen Driscoll
as Woman Passenger
Greg Wood
as Passenger at Counter
Peter Appel
as Diner Owner
Eoin O'Shea
as Passenger 1
Michael Quinlan
as Passenger 2
Lyman Chen
as Passenger 3
Brian O'Halloran
as Jeep Driver
Megan Mazaika
as Jeep Passenger 1
Richard Chew
as Jeep Passenger 2
Keith E. Bullard
as Man in Crowd at Corssroads
Ashley Brimfield
as Woman in Group
Mara Hobel
as Woman with Hands Over Ears
James "Jimbo" Breen
as Farmhouse Voice
James Breen
as Farmhouse Voice
Carmen Bitonti
as Mangled Construction Worker
Brian Anthony Wilson
as Arguing Man in Crowd
Greg Smith Aldridge
as Zoo Employee
Ukee Washington
as Local News Anchor
John Ottavino
as Network News Anchor
Sid Doherty
as Radio News Anchor
Wes Heywood
as Radio Voice
Nancy Sokerka
as Radio Caller Fay
Julia Yorks
as Young Woman Voice on Phone
Bill Shusta
as Radio Newsman
Kirk Penberthy
as Radio Announcer
Alex Craft
as Truck Passenger Boy
Allie Habberstad
as Truck Passenger Girl
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News & Interviews for The Happening

Critic Reviews for The Happening

All Critics (178) | Top Critics (42)

  • At first, a great deal happens, then nothing much happens for quite some time, then something so underwhelming happens that one is left wondering, 'Did that really just happen?'

    Nov 16, 2011 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Nigel Floyd

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • [A]n astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined.

    Sep 22, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The Happening is an awful letdown, yet it leaves you with something new, as a gently waving tree -- that classical image of pastoral tranquillity -- mutates into a harbinger of doom.

    Jun 23, 2008 | Full Review…
  • For a movie with the potential for so much global-warming electricity, it's disappointingly low on voltage.

    Jun 18, 2008

    Rex Reed

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • It almost dares you to roll your eyes or laugh at certain scenes that are supposed to be deadly serious. But, you know what, I appreciated this creatively offbeat, daring sci-fi mind-trip.

    Jun 16, 2008
  • All that's missing is the head alien of Plan 9 From Outer Space dropping by to lecture the populace for disrespecting nature: 'Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!'

    Jun 16, 2008

Audience Reviews for The Happening

  • Mar 26, 2016
    The film didn't fail to be disturbing and thrilling through out. It didn't feel boring and I don't hate it so much. Some of the suicides gave me chills running down my spine and some of the suicides made me laugh because they looked stupid and unnatural. The dialog in this film felt pretty silly too.
    Tarin P Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2015
    What the f*** was that?! M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening is utter garbage from start to finish. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are horribly miscast and give terrible performances. But the real problem is the script, which is awful and made worse by the overly serious and preachy tone. Still, some of the imagery is quite disturbing and delivers some frightful chills. Yet the ridiculousness of the plot undoes all of that and prevents the film from gaining any momentum. Poorly made and ill-conceived, The Happening is unbelievably bad.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • May 09, 2015
    Arguably the most important job a director has, is to get the best possible performance out of their actors as they can. In this sense, The Shamhammer failed as hard as I think any director ever has. Stars Marky Mark, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo will probably never be chiselled into the hypothetical "Mount Rushmore of Actors" but they have also all proven themselves very capable of the craft both before The Happening's release, and since. But I tell you, here they are unabashedly terrible! There is no two ways about it, from lead role to bit-part, there is not one iota of good acting from start to finish. There are plenty films that hold far from Oscar winning performances I still love, but The Happening is so far from one of them. It's bad, it's dumb it's infuriating to watch everything go to waste, and the only thing keeping this from getting the lowest ranking possible is some pretty top notch practical effect suicides that bring a rawness to the opening sequence. Watch them throw it all away in M. Night "Lost All Audience Respect" Shyamalan's "The Happening!" Or more accurately, don't. Save yourself those 90 minutes of ugly frustration and just avoid it like you would viral weapons that makes you kill yourse- Oh wait trees did it.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2013
    "Is it really happening? Is it really going to be? Is it what our minds were meant to feast upon?" Needless to say, that's going to be a rare occasion in which I reference a song that came out after the 21st century film I'm supposed to be discussing, but hey, if there is good music nowadays, it's bound to be by Transatlantic (78 minutes, it better be good), even if their lyrics aren't that creative, as that quote will, in fact, tell you, which isn't to say that it's quite as cheesy as the idea of getting M. Night Shyamalan to direct a film adaptation of a '70s black sitcom. Oh no, wait this is "What's Happening!!" (Korey Coleman of Spill.com already made that joke, so I guess you could say that my reference is a "Rerun"... if were as cheesy as, I don't know, Neal Morse when he writes a song for Transatlantic or, well, anyone), I just got confused because this film stars Marky Mark, one of the original black wannabe honkies, which is ironic, considering that he probably took this role because he knew that Zooey Deschanel would be playing his wife who is ostensibly almost a decade younger than him, and would therefore firmly remind people that he's too blasted old to be hanging on to the Marky Mark image. I can think of some people who would say that there just has to be some kind of a lame excuse surrounding Mark Wahlberg's being attached to this project, but really, Shyamalan was going to have to get some big-named, somewhat respected talent in this film in order to sell it. I'm not saying that this film is so bland that it doesn't have a whole lot to promote, but this project's other big marketing move was to emphasize that this is Shyamalan's first R-rated film (His films have gotten very grown-up ever since that adorable little tale about a little boy who sees terrified, brutally dead people), so, needless to say, there's not a whole lot to talk about here, at least when it comes to strengths, which are still present to some extent. Perhaps the best thing in this film is James Newton Howard's score, and I'm sure that sounds pretty harsh, but really, Howard sets no low bar here with his surprisingly highly inspired musical efforts, infusing an intensely subtle minimalism into stylish, often unconventional and perhaps consistently realized compositions, whose very atmospheric flavor is both nifty on a musical level and worthy as a storytelling compliment. The film's soundtrack is certainly more worthy of flavoring up this story's engagement value than plenty of areas in storytelling itself, and it's shame that that's the case, but at least there is something going to doing justice to a premise of limited potential. Later on, I'll be touching more upon just how thin and silly this film's premise is, but right now, I'm going to get into the meat here, because this is, in fact, a promising story, at least in some ways, boasting a questionable and even conventional premise, but still offering some intriguing dramatic and thematic weight behind a conflict that is still pretty refreshing in a lot of ways. Granted, the conflict is probably so refreshing because so many people knew that it would be mighty difficult to sell a disaster thriller revolving around some kind of a natural, or even supernatural phenomenon that inspires suicidal actions within the masses, but the fact of the matter is that there is enough different about this premise for it to be promising, in spite of its shortcomings that, I must admit, are often successfully overshadowed by inspiration. If M. Night Shyalaman's errors as a director are not the cause of under-inspiration, then they're the cause of too much inspiration, resulting in an ambition that pumps up emphasis on the bad, or at least questionable, with the good, but make no mistake, there is some, well, not necessarily good, but decency here, as Shyamalan's meditation on an intense, if overblown air always keeps blandness from descending into dullness, and sometimes even proves to be effective in establishing tension. At the very least, there is some charm to Shyamalan's ambition, which is misguided, make no mistake, but still somewhat understandable, as there is enough bite to this premise, as well as this story's interpretation, for the final product to border on decent. Alas, that border is not quite crossed, because while the film's heart is in the right place, it cannot keep things pumping enough to escape mediocrity as a thriller, and even as a character drama. Sure, I suppose the film is mostly atmospheric, but, needless to say, it relies a lot on its characters, and while a certain ambiguity is certainly needed in a film like this, there's only so much to characterization, thus the characters aren't sold as much as they should be, neither in the writing or, well, in the acting. Sure, the eventually discarded John Leguizamo, and leading man Mark Wahlberg, are pretty good, as are certain supporting players, but I'm almost surprised to see how underwhelming a lot of the performances are, for although much of the acting material is more flat than you'd expect out of a dramatic thriller built around the collapse of society, there's no excuse for some of the delivery of the material to be flat, maybe even kind of weak, and such underwhelming performances behind a premise that is conceptually reliant on inspired performances slow down momentum, though obviously not quite like dragging. I can go on about how underdeveloped the film is in a lot of ways, yet the film still has time to achieve its relatively brief, 91-minute rather forcibly, flaunting much fat around the edges and dragging out this narrative that is built around steadily building tension, yet still takes too much time to reach its point to keep coherent, or even at a safe distance from repetition. The film meanders along more than it should, and such aimlessness would be easier to forgive if this draggy story wasn't so blasted formulaic, because even though the premise has its share of refreshing elements, as I said earlier, the actual structure of this plot is nothing that we haven't seen before, being generic enough to be both predictable and reflective of a certain limit to M. Night Shyamalan's inspiration as a writer, who, in all fairness, was never going to be able to do a whole lot with this story. Like I said, people, the premise is not only conceptually refreshing in a lot of ways, but with a hint of dramatic and thematic weight that presents some potential for this thriller, and yet, the conflict is still questionable in concept, as are some lame twists and turns in the plot, and, on paper, that really shakes engagement value, which goes further shaken by missteps in the efforts of the very man who helps in selling some of the silliness. Shyamalan, as director, is sometimes effective, but the thing that the ambition that he often charms with mostly inspires is a glaring lack of subtlety that really brings shortcomings to light, whether when we're dealing with something as light as embarrassingly fall-flat, tonally unfitting comic relief, or when we're dealing with the histrionics that could have worked behind more realized storytelling, yet distance more than compel in this case, when behind overambitious, yet uncertain direction. Now, what Shyamalan does right brings the final product to the brink of decency, but those subtle missteps found throughout the film ultimately go a long way in slowly, but surely, overpowering engagement value with underwhelmingness that only ensues deeper and deeper, until mediocrity stands supreme. When the situation has blown over, excellent score work and some intrigue, both on paper and in storytelling, are left standing firmly enough for the final product to border on decent, but under the limited, but collectively overwhelming weight of underdevelopment, generally underwhelming, if not weak performances, repetitious dragging and cheesy tonal unevenness behind a questionable premise, - whose errors are made all the more glaring by subtlety issues within overambitious direction - M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" falls flat as a borderline decent, but often silly, generally uncompelling and ultimately mediocre disaster thriller. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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