Film / The Happening

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“Plastic. I’m talking to a plastic plant. I'm still doing it.”

The Happening is a 2008 science-fiction horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Something big is going down: people all over the East Coast of the United States start to kill themselves for no reason, and nobody can explain the mass suicides. High school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) tries to escape Philadelphia with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), his colleague and friend Julian (John Leguizamo), and Julian’s daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez).

At first, the movie takes a Hitchcockian approach to the horror — the suicides merely happen without explanation — until somebody does explain it: plants, in response to human overpopulation, are emitting a neurotoxin that makes a person’s survival instinct kick into reverse.

Compare Alive: The Final Evolution.

This film provides examples of:

  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: For some reason, the film's R rating was a huge marketing point.
  • Babies Ever After: Alma is revealed to be pregnant at the end.
  • Behind the Black: Funny how the characters don't notice the bodies hanging from the trees until the camera reveals them, even though they had been driving straight towards them for a good half-minute.
  • Creator Cameo: M. Night Shyamalan provides the voice of Joey, with whom Alma had dessert once and acts as if she had an affair with him. And the viewer never sees him.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Or, in this case, a Crazy Doll Lady.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Really, really obvious one: the two rooms where you can hear whatever the person in the other room is saying.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Mrs. Jones is (supposed to be) a non-comedic example. She has obviously lived in isolation for many years, and displays misanthropic behavior and truly terrible social skills (she even accuses Elliot of planning to murder her in her sleep for no reason at all). She even flips out at Elliot trying to examine the doll on her bed (which presumably represents her younger self, given she alleges it's her face, and she was apparently hiding nearby to see if Elliot approached it) and orders him to leave at once. Clearly she has some serious mental problems.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Whenever the characters need any sort of exposition they can find a broadcast, wherever they are, be it the abandoned truck, the radio in the middle of the field (that no one bothered to take with them), or the montage of other people all over the U.S. watching news on TV.
  • Cute Mute: Jess says very little until the end.
  • Disposable Pilot: The Jeep driver.
  • Dull Surprise: The reaction to the mass suicides is … less expressive than one might expect.
  • Emotionless Girl: Alma, more or less, spends most of the movie in Dull Surprise mode, and one of whose first lines is "I don't like to show my emotions." Maybe the most egregious example among many in this movie is her line about the foliage "It makes you kill yourself" (right after she and Elliot heard the newscaster say it together).
  • The End... Or Is It?: The end of the film, where it appears that the whole affair will repeat in France.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The plants suddenly evolve the ability to emit neurotoxin. All species of plants. Simultaneously.
  • Expospeak: The principal explains the symptoms at the beginning to the other teachers. Later, the nursery owner explains plants’ ability to release chemicals. Mrs. Jones explains the speaker in the springhouse.
  • Fake Food: In a gag that runs a little too long.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: In the nastiest fashion possible.
  • Gorn: Apparently someone in Fox’s marketing department learned that people were just laughing at the answer to the 'mystery', so commercials for the DVD release focused solely on the deaths and its status as Shyamalan's first R-rated film, ignoring the mystery aspect.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The private's use of "Cheese and crackers!" as an exclamation, and the construction worker's use of "thing" for "penis".
  • Green Aesop
  • Humans Are Bastards: Hence, apparently, the plants' sudden "evolution" and revolt against humanity. Additionally, in one scene, a guy shoots two obnoxious teenagers who have joined Elliot because he doesn't want them coming into his boarded-up house.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted when the two teenage boys get shot.
  • Made of Plasticine: The zookeeper whose lions (very easily) tear him limb from limb.
  • The Meadow Run: Fine, it's more like the Meadow Walk, but even so...
  • Non Sequitur Thud: One of the late stages of the toxin involves speaking nonsense.
  • No Peripheral Vision: When Elliot walks up to the truck with the open door, only after looking through it does he notice the house in the distance. He then points it out to his companions, who were looking in that direction already, and then they notice it.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: ...until people start killing themselves.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Two women are seen holed up in an apartment in the city somewhere, wearing gas masks. This is one of the smartest things you can do if you believe that a chemical/biological weapon has been used and there is minimal option for evacuating safely.
    • A man boards up his rural house to protect himself and his family from the toxin. Elliot tries to reason with them, but Josh and Jared's behaviour undermines his attempt and they're shot dead for their trouble.
  • Orphaned Punchline:
    Construction Worker: ...and the little guy says, "You have a girlfriend named Wendy, too? Well, I saw your thing and it says 'WY'." And the big guy says, "No, man. Mine says 'Welcome to Jamaica, have a nice day.'"note 
  • Poor Communication Kills: Elliot, Alma, and Jess get all the way through dinner with Mrs. Jones before trying to mention the event, but Mrs. Jones makes it clear she doesn't want to hear about it anyway.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: When the police officer and others shoot themselves. Odd, given the gory scenes in other parts.
  • Product Placement: When Elliot tells them to stop the car because of the bodies on the road, the next shot is the wheel stopping with the word "Jeep" on the hubcap lined up perfectly horizontally and readable.
  • The Power of Love: The plants just happen to stop emitting the neurotoxin minutes before Elliot and Alma decide to go outside and embrace. In the original script, the subtext became text and it was literally The Power of Love that saved them.
  • Red Shirt: Quite a few characters have shirts redder than roses, redder than poinsettias.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Disappearing Bees, Terrorist Attacks, Global Warming, etc. The film is just a grab bag of topical terrors.
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum:
    • Elliot Moore describes the plants' mass homicide not as an unprecedented biological phenomenon, but as something that just "happened".
    • Science doesn't seem to be in great shape in this movie's universe. In his first scene, Elliot asks his students for theories on disappearing bees. One student suggests, "It's just a phenomenon of nature and we’ll never understand it." In reality, a science teacher would consider that a desperate cop-out from an ignorant student, but Elliot considers it a perfectly valid answer. One gets the impression M. Night lacks an understanding of science and how it works, given that the whole point of science is to explain natural phenomena.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Mrs. Jones has this, and some obvious mental issues, going for her. She displays very hostile behavior towards Elliot and others for no good reason at all.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheHappening