tek's rating: maybe "meh and a half"

The Happening (R)
20th Century Studios; Dread Central; IMDb; Movies Anywhere; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
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Caution: spoilers, I guess.

This came out in 2008, but I didn't see it until 2015. It's something I always had a vague interest in seeing, just because it was made by M. Night Shyamalan, though I knew it had not been well received. And now I can see why. It's just... I mean... you know... it's not a terrible movie. I think what really bugs me about it is there's nothing in it that I could really call a plot twist. I didn't have a problem with the acting, or the drama, and the basic... you know... the happening... was scary, I guess. And there were at least a couple of things in the movie that were (intentionally) amusing. I just feel like the movie squandered its potential. Ultimately, it has a vague sort of environmentalist message, I guess, but it's just so... vague.

Anyway, Mark Wahlberg plays this guy named Elliot Moore, a high school science teacher. He's married to a woman named Alma (Zooey Deschanel). And he has a friend named Julian (John Leguizamo), who has a wife (whom we never see) and a daughter named Jess. At the start of the movie, people start mysteriously killing themselves. At first, it's speculated that it's the result of some kind of terrorist attack, and people start evacuating various cities in the northeastern United States, where this is happening. Julian invites Elliot and Alma to join him and his daughter on a train heading to another city (his wife is going to take the next train). The train ends up stopping in a small town before reaching its destination, so all the passengers have to find some other way of going wherever they're going. Julian gets a ride with someone who's heading in the direction of where his wife is, but there's just room for himself, so he gets Elliot and Alma to take Jess with them. They get a ride from a man and woman in a station wagon (and for me one of the most interesting aspects of the movie was that the man was played by the guy who played Horace on Dr. Quinn). He has this crazy theory that the plants are causing whatever's happening. And it doesn't take long to realize that as crazy as he seems, he's probably right.

Anyway, they all eventually meet a bunch of other people, coming from different directions, who have all encountered dead bodies in the directions they were coming from. Finally it's decided to abandon their vehicles, form small groups, and head off on foot, away from the roads, in an effort to avoid whatever's causing this. (Why anyone thought it was a good idea to travel directly through fields, if plants were causing this, I have no idea.) Elliot soon realizes that the larger the group, the more likely they are to be affected, so he gets everyone to form smaller groups, as they try to make their way someplace unaffected by the happening. Elliot, Alma, and Jess end up walking with a couple of boys, Jared and Josh. And at one point, they enter a house where everything is fake. That seemed pretty creepy and I thought it would be the plot twist I was waiting for... but it wasn't. (It was amusing when I found out what was up with that, but also disappointing.) And um... other stuff happens, as the journey continues. Some of the characters we've met survive, and some don't. I don't want to give away any more than that. But I will say that if you think the "warning" given by the planet is enough to make humans change their ways, you clearly haven't been paying attention to, you know... humanity.

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