The best and worst of M Night Shyamalan’s questionable talents are on display in The Happening, but after The Village and the dire Lady in The Water, it’s good to see Shyamalan hitting any sort of form at all. The apocalyptic opening here is enthralling in its nastiness, perfectly setting the scene for the nature-against-human battle ahead. Terrorism paranoia and environmental awareness serve as levers by which Shyamalan controls the impressive pulsating action, but he then allows the narrative to be diverted to teacher protagonist Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) and his dull-arsed marital problems. Shyamalan shares with Spielberg a penchant for sentimental endings that ruin great premises.
That said, the 1950s end-of-the-world B-movie feel is accentuated by the appearance of our everyman hero. It’s a cartoonish piece of casting, one that counters the assumption that teachers have to be portrayed as nerds, but ultimately it doesn’t work - scenes intended to be played straight become unintentionally funny due to Wahlberg’s star turn being so gormless.
Zooey Deschanel plays wife Alma; unhappy in the marriage and utterly annoying. Shyamalan makes the mistake of concentrating on this dire pairing in the predictable and over-expositional cheesy ending.
Out now on general release.