'The Happening' Serves Up Effective, Chilling, Occasionally Wrenching Nonsense

What a bunch of nonsense—effective nonsense, chilling nonsense, occasionally wrenching nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless.

This is what happens when M. Night Shyamalan tries to play both John Carpenter (bloody) and Stanley Kubrick (cold-blooded) while writing and directing what the literalist will either dismiss or embrace as the horror-film extension of An Inconvenient Truth, depending upon who the literalist thinks is responsible for, ya know, killing the planet. No spoilers here because there's nothing to give away—not even the alleged cause of the toxin that causes folks in the Northeast to go loopy before killing themselves with whatever's handy (a cop's gun, a shard of glass, a sidewalk 40 stories down . . . a rotor tiller, ick). One minute folks are enjoying themselves in Central Park; the next they're stabbing and shooting themselves for the following, oh, 90 minutes, give-or-take. (The film's first 10 minutes are, down to the last second, unrelentingly horrific.)

Mark Wahlberg, as a Philly science teacher obsessed with the sudden decline in the bee population, and Zooey Deschanel, as his disinterested missus, plod through the Pennsylvania countryside in search of a safe haven, only they can't find one; the toxin's everywhere. But, if nothing else, a couple experiencing a few hiccups—she's contemplating an affair with the voice of Shyamalan, making one of his more clever cameos—finds it easier to talk shit out when death is imminent. Which is a decent point, even if you have to avoid the piles of corpses on your way to therapy.

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