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DVD Review: The Happening


Here comes another film from guy who loves weird twists in his movies, M. Night Shyamalan. I guess people seem to like this guy's films, but I've always found them to be pretty dull, and this one really isn't any exception. Perhaps it was the mood I was in when I watched this film, but for some reason I didn't find myself wishing I was doing something else while it was on. I can't say this was because the film was engaging or intriguing, because it really wasn't, so it must have just been my current state of mind.

On to the plot! The film starts off in New York City's Central Park where all of a sudden the people completely stop what they're doing, then start walking backward while some of them begin to spout nonsense. And then... they kill themselves. This effect begins to spread beyond the park, where more and more people begin to kill themselves. It's weird, and you'd be weird if you didn't wonder what the heck was going on.

Meanwhile, there is a high school science teacher named Elliott Moore who is teaching his class and showing us all how good his child-like charm works when teaching students. This scene seemed a bit forced. And then class is cancelled because of all the unexplained deaths that is believed to have come from some kind of terrorist attack. So everyone evacuates and we have this other awkward scene where Elliott and his best friend, Julian, a high school math teacher, give some exposition about how Elliott is currently fighting with his wife. This really seems out of place.

From here, not a whole lot happens. They get on a train to evacuate... and the are riding the train... and then the train stops because the people running the train lost contact with everyone else. So everybody walks into whatever little town they were stopped at and hang out in the diner. Here we learn through video cell phones that the suicides are increasing and taking place in every major city on the East coast. So everyone panics and starts driving West. Excited yet? Are you feeling the suspense? Yeah, me neither.

And really, isn't that what most of M. Night Shyamalan's movies feel like? Just a bunch of people hanging around with some mysterious thing going on in the background. What's strange is that once we get to the third act, it starts to feel like a completely different movie. They meet this creepy old lady who is mean but lets them stay at her place. It feels like the beginning of some other movie about some wicked old witch or something, with the whole everyone-committing-suicide taking a back seat.

As for extra features, there are some decent ones here. Deleted scenes (with introductions from M. Night Shyamalan) help us to understand a few things, since as why the characters kept seeming to refer to a fight between Elliott and his wife. There are also some behind the scenes featurettes (The Hard Cut, A Day for Night, Elements of a Scene, Visions of The Happening: A Making of, I Hear You Whispering) which were decent enough. And finally there was a gag reel, which wasn't all that funny.

Overall, I wouldn't say this movie is all that bad, it just isn't all that good either. Chalk this one up as a rental.

The Happening, released by 20th Century Fox, is available starting October 7, 2008.

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