I know I'm going to take abuse for this one, but I liked The Happening.
M. Night Shyamalan brings his unique writing and directing style to the screen once again in a story about people fleeing from something, but not knowing what they are fleeing from. The Happening begins in Central Park in New York City where everyone suddenly stops talking and walking and they begin killing themselves with a varied series of slow and eerily unemotional actions. It begins to be reported as a terrorist attack and then the suicides begin happening all over the North East coast of the US.
The main story centers around a high school science teacher in Philadelphia named Elliot who is fleeing from the affected areas with his wife Alma. As it becomes more and more clear that terrorists could not be responsible for these events Elliot becomes desperate to determine the cause so that he can keep his wife safe.
The Happening does not develop its characters with the exception of Elliot and Alma. The usual long pulled back shots that make M. Night's movies so visually stimulating weren't on display here nearly as much. My main problem with the Happening was an extremely out of place series of scenes at about the 3/4 mark of the movie. The scenes were eerie in their own way but the movie got away from its main plot for a while there and it was distracting. I'm attempting to not give a spoiler her but I'm sure that those of you who've seen The Happening know what I'm talking about.
I liked a few things a lot in this movie though. The pacing was great, I love the slow methodical way that M. Night tells a story. I also found the opening scenes extremely creepy and affective and I loved the way that the story focused on the calm exodus of people who really weren't sure what they were running from. The result is people who aren't in a panic, though their fear is tangible. There were moments of humour in The Happening that worked very well also.
I read a bunch of reviews of The Happening to see if I was the only one who liked this movie and I was relieved to find that the man himself found more to like than dislike here, "It is no doubt too thoughtful for the summer action season, but I appreciate the quietly realistic way Shyamalan finds to tell a story about the possible death of man." - Roger Ebert
I enjoyed most of The Happening but I didn't love it. Mark Wahlberg was good at times as Elliot, but he was out of place at other times. I thought Zooey Deschanel was great as Alma but unfortunately there weren't really any other well developed characters to talk about. John Leguizamo actually gives a very good performance as Elliot's best friend and he really should have had more screen time.
I'm going to do something I've never done before on this site and that is to not recommend a movie that I liked. I'm putting The Happening on my 'Don't Watch It' because I don't think many people will enjoy it. For me the value was good though and I rate The Happening at $6.