It's pretty disconcerting to watch a once promising and inventive young writer/director run out of ideas and devolve into tedious self-parody. But that's exactly what seems to have happened with M. Night Shyamalan--and that's coming from a long-time booster of his work, who would go see anything with his name attached.
At one time I would've considered him the finest director in horror and/or sci-fi. The Sixth Sense was a revelation. Unbreakable was my favorite of all his films, the most true-to-life superhero film ever made. Signs was flawed, but still highly effective. And I even enjoyed the unfairly maligned The Village. Then came Lady in the Water, a movie so bad I couldn't even get through it. Surely, it had to be an aberration. I would give the man another chance. That chance was The Happening.
A terrific concept--an unexplainable epidemic of mass suicide--is pitifully squandered. The script is the kind of ham-fisted tripe that would get a first-time screenwriter booted from a producer's office, and the acting is laughably bad. This is especially true of female lead Zooey Deschanel, who gives one of the worst performances I can remember seeing in a major dramatic film. Even Mark Wahlberg, who is usually excellent, was painful to watch. I guess you can chalk it up to the crucial influence the right director can have on his actors.
And the big bombshell plot twist, the cause of the epidemic? Don't even get me started. The word "lame" doesn't even begin to do it justice.
I will not be running to the theater to see the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, you can be sure of that. I've learned my lesson. I'll wait for Netflix--if that. And I doubt I'm the only one. Something tells me there's going to be a mysterious mass epidemic of people ignoring Mr. Shyamalan's movies. However, this epidemic is far from unexplained.