“The Happening” — What Did You Think?

After seeing so much bad press on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, I was beginning to get ready to not see it, to let it wait until DVD as I ended up doing with Lady in the Water (which was every bit as hokey as people said it would be).

In this case, the New York Times was just positive enough to keep me in my Shyamalan == opening weekend pattern, and I’m glad of it. I actually enjoyed the film. I did have my doubts about some of Shyamalan’s choices, and in the end the whole thing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But some of the images Shyamalan put together in the film were genuinely, arrestingly creepy — I will probably remember the scene in Princeton for a long, long time. Finally, the conceit as a whole is, I have to say, strikingly original.

If you generally like Shyamlan, don’t let the reviewers’ piranha-like viciousness keep you away (especially since that viciousness is so easy: quite a number of people seem to be using the ready-made zinger, “‘The Happening’ Is Not Happening”). On the other hand if you hated Signs and The Village, you’ll probably hate this too.

I’m sure readers will have their opinions, and not all will be positive. Fire away (try to avoid spoilers, please).

Finally, the obligatory desi tidbit: The Happening was 50% financed by an Indian company, UTV. Though The Happening is not going to make anything like the kind of money Shyamalan made with his first three big films, it apparently has exceeded opening weekend expectations, despite the horrendous press. Which means, UTV and Fox will likely make their money back. Which means… Manoj Shyamalan probably isn’t going anywhere.

Trivia: Did you know that Shyamalan just came up with the middle name “Night” around the time he applied for college? The application wanted a middle initial, and he went with “N.” Gogol, all over again.

30 thoughts on ““The Happening” — What Did You Think?

  1. I actually enjoyed the film.

    I second it. I liked all the subtle one-liners, sarcasm amd humor

  2. And not to mention all the really creepy killings which was the novelty of the movie

    The discussion about the mysterious death of bees is actually an interesting topic in itself and which I guess probably motivated Shyamalan to make this movie (?). In any case it is now being debated in academic circles that the death of Bees is probably due to an alien virus.

  3. *omit ‘that’ in the comment above… and the movie was definitely a B (or a B- probably), not as bad as some critics want us to believe.

  4. I hated Lady in the Water. I did enjoy Signs and Villagers, though. But definate and sure decline over the years. The AV Club gave The Happening a D+. There’a a fun audio of their staff discussing The Happening here (and Shymalan more broadly).

  5. For anyone interested in a long interview with M. Night, Prem Panicker posted this transcript of the one that ran in India Abroad recently from the trip he made to India to receive the Padma Shri.

    He also posts a video link here.

  6. I liked it too! There were plenty of parts where I actually found myself trying to shrink into my seat (eg. when the little girl was on the swing) and the premise is sort of interesting. I’m really surprised at the vitriol directed his way by such a wide swathe of critics…it’s as if he’s personally wronged them. The movie doesn’t deserve the negativity it’s gotten – it’s worth watching.

  7. Finally, the conceit as a whole is, I have to say, strikingly original.

    Surely, you mean “concept”, Amar? Unless you were shooting for a pun, on a whole different plane, which I just do not have enough substance to attain ;-)

  8. 8 · Vishal said

    Finally, the conceit as a whole is, I have to say, strikingly original.
    Surely, you mean “concept”, Amar? Unless you were shooting for a pun, on a whole different plane, which I just do not have enough substance to attain ;-)

    vishal, you are underestimating the english prof. – conceit: an organizing theme or concept

  9. I saw it yesterday, thought it was really funny and decent horror flick. Heard lot of people LOL. There is an interesting interview conducted by Shekar Gupta at NDTV, covering his political preferences to his opinion about Bolly films.

  10. After seeing so much bad press on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening

    I see dead careers…. Of course, there might be a twist in the tale that nobody sees coming.. like “Night” getting some humility.

    I’m really surprised at the vitriol directed his way by such a wide swathe of critics

    He seems to bring it upon himself with his self-importance. And even fancying himself as a Spielberg who can draw huge crowds purely by virtue of his name headlining the directorial credits.. when his career has really been one megahit.

    I didn’t really think Sixth Sense was all that, probably because I saw the “twist” about halfway through. Among all his movies, I actually liked Unbreakable best.

  11. It pulled 12 mil on Friday.. dismal, looks like the HULK crushed it… not surprising. I don’t see Marky Mark beating the HULK. Feel the Vibration!

  12. I’ve always thought there was something interesting in all Shyamalan’s films, even Lady in the Water, which overall I found pretty clunky. Of course it’s a matter of taste, but I happen to enjoy the way he develops his stories — even his worst films show more thought behind them than some humdrum, boring Hollywood potboilers. I too like Unbreakable the best — as an origin story of a superhero (ahead of the curve as it turns out, since Batman Begins and the latest Superman flick came afterwards) it’s not been bettered. No matter whether Shyamalan is an arrogant so and so, however, this compulsion in the media to destroy certain directors and/or actors that surfaces from time to time both intrigues and bothers me. Hollywood is full of people with unpleasant, self-important personalities — why make a point of going after THIS particular unpleasant, self-important person? And why this level of vitriol? Obviously Shyalaman is neither the first nor the last director to get this kind of treatment. One wonders though what it would take for him to escape it — if he cares (assuming the movie makes enough money to make his backers happy). If the “brand” goes too bad, can he reinvent himself making different kinds of films? Or will he make progressively smaller films along the same lines which critics will routinely pan until he disappears entirely (like Michael Cimino?) It’s not like he’s Paul Verhoeven, who could regroup back in Holland away from the attentions of the US press.

  13. I thought SIGNS developed the sense of suspense well. Will probaby go see THE HAPPENING.

  14. I didn’t like The Happening at all. I was bored halfway through it. The audience actually booed at the end of the movie. The graphic death scenes offered some cheap thrills but on the whole I just found the movie to be boring.

  15. After reading all the Khalid Mohammad-esque reviews on the internet, It was nearly a leap of faith to go an watch the movie. I have always appreciated Shyamalan’s fascination with the dark and the unseen, and think that Lady in the water notwithstanding, all his movies had something special. This movie left me with slightly mixed feelings, but I cannot say that that it didn’t entertain me. It began brilliantly, and although the pace slackened intermittently, the creepy suicides kept me interested. Out of 10, I would give it 6- or make that 6 1/2. Also appreciated were the sporadic moments of dry/dark humour

  16. All he has to do is get some humility and not insist he write the screenplays. He’s a good shooter but was a one trick mule as a writer with the twist ending.

  17. I went in with very low expectations and I kinda liked it. I wasn’t bored at all. It was fairly suspenseful. Superhero (ironman,hulk) and adventure (indiana jones) and animated (kung fu panda) movies bore me to tears so I had a somewhat limited set of choices today.

  18. 2 · Priya said

    The discussion about the mysterious death of bees is actually an interesting topic in itself and which I guess probably motivated Shyamalan to make this movie (?). In any case it is now being debated in academic circles that the death of Bees is probably due to an alien virus.

    Latest news indicates that Shyamalan’s inspiration was scientist James Lovelock’s research work

    Scientist James Lovelock first published the outlines of the “Gaia” hypothesis, which suggests that Earth’s flora and fauna are interlocked to systematically moderate conditions in Earth’s atmosphere to make the planet more hospitable, a controversial idea best known from his 1979 book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

  19. The films that Hollywood studios throw to Indian money are the riskier ventures. The sure fire potters, spider men, and hulks remain studio/favored partner financed. These latter are the moneymakers. The former fill dates and provide crucial tax shelters.

  20. 15 · Clare said

    I too like Unbreakable the best — as an origin story of a superhero (ahead of the curve as it turns out, since Batman Begins and the latest Superman flick came afterwards) it’s not been bettered.

    Both the original Batman & Superman (the Michael Keaton & Christopher Reeve versions, respectively) came out way before Unbreakable. However, Unbreakable scores major points as the story of a non-comic book based superhero. Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990) is the only other one that I can think of, though it is arguable whether Darkman is a superhero.

    After the disaster that was Lady In The Water, I will watch Happening only on inflight, when I can’t do much else & I don’t need to spend money on the movie. It is his first R rated movie so airlines may not even show it :-( Also, the R might explain the movie’s good BO performance (male 18-34 demographics apparently love violence & gore on screen!).

    Peter Bradshaw of Guardian compares Night to Ed Wood Jr. Now that’s scary!

    Also OT, I was recently thinking of Night’s The Village when reading about Somini Sengupta’s story on a gated community in Gurgaon in NYT where contact with the outside world of servants & tradespeople have been severely curtailed.

  21. 20 UPS said

    All he has to do is get some humility and not insist he write the screenplays. He’s a good shooter but was a one trick mule as a writer with the twist ending.

    Agree! Shyamalan is an excellent Director, but a piss-poor writer (except for Sixth Sense, of course). He just too proud and rich to admit it. I saw ‘The Happening’ and it was pretty bad. The dialog itself killed it!

  22. Will Fox & UTV share the profits or loss from this movie equally ? Or is Fox in charge of the North American distribution & UTV in charge of distribution elsewhere ?

  23. I think the idea about the wicked winds is good, but….

    bad thing about The Happening is the part of Zooey Deschanel , she made her part way too cute for creepy condition..

    remember when the cellphone rings ans she just stared at it with funny big eyes??? She disturbing me with all that expression.

    Wrong actress, that is.