Usually I start a movie review with a brief summary of the plot, then I give my reactions, but I feel like changing that method for this particular movie.
At the end of the movie, as the credits began to roll, my friend asked me if I thought that there would be an extra scene after the credits. My logical mind started to answer that based on the final scene I didn’t think there was more to add. In fact the final scene could have been used as a post-credits addition. But instead, rendered weary and depressed by the movie, I said, “I don’t care, I’ve had enough of this movie. Let’s go, now.”
Then a guy got up from his seat on the other side of the cinema and started shouting and gesturing as he walked down the stairs, “That was a crap movie. The worst film I’ve ever seen.” His girlfriend smirked as she followed him out.
My overall opinion is that The Happening was a compelling idea, poorly executed. I went into that cinema with my eyes open, I’d known that many people were criticising the movie, but I was still hoping that I would enjoy it. Either that or that it would be “so bad that it was good”.
The basic plot is that suddenly random groups of people in the North-Eest region of the USA commit suicide, seeming due to an airbourne virus. Mark Wahlberg plays Elliot Moore, a science teacher trying to escape the threat along with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), fellow teacher Julian (John Leguizamo) and Julian’s young daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez).
From reading other reviews of the film I have discovered that the version shown in the UK (and also Germany) had the goriest scenes edited (e.g. the man with the lawnmower and the guy with the lions), which explains why the film is only a 12A here (i.e. children can see it with an adult) but received an R-rating in America.
So what did I like about the movie?
Well I appreciated the early scene when the construction workers were jumping off the scaffolding, that was very frightening. I found it interesting that in order to produce empathy there would (nearly) always be one person who was aware of what was happening to the people around them, so that we could experience the fear and confusion in their expressions. I liked John Leguizamo’s character, so I was sad that he couldn’t have had more scene time.
And what didn’t I like?
Well the dialogue was awful, really dire. I’m wondering if Wahlberg and Deschanel signed up to this film without reading the script, and couldn’t back out of doing when they realised how crappy it was as they seemed to have given up by the second half of the movie.
I’ve never seen Zooey Deschanel in anything before, but her character was so irritating and whiney and dumb. Just the fact that Elliot was supposed to be married to her made me hate him too. For instance, the bit near the end of the movie, when Elliot calls to Alma and tells her to close the windows and doors (to avoid the airbourne virus that they’ve been running from for the entire movie) she asks him why? And when she turns her nose up at the hot dogs?
There was no chemistry between those two either. I was more worried about the cute kid killing herself to get away from them than anything actually happening to them.
I cringed during the scene where people on the other side of the field started dying and Alma demands that Elliot helps them. While we endure an extended close-up of his flairing nostrils he cries, “Give me a minute! Give me a minute!”
I didn’t like that they made the recluse lady so creepy, but the actress who played her was very convincing.
It could have been hilarious tension relief when Elliiot tried to talk to the (rubber) plant, but it just came over like another idiotic gesture.
All in all, it was a disappointment for me. I know some people out there will say that the script and acting were deliberately bad, and that it’s an absurdist masterpiece, etc. – well I’m glad that they got something out of it.
Urban Recluse Rating: