With The Happening, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan bounces back from the turgidness of The Village and the idiocy of Lady in the Water. The movie has a great, Shyamalan-esque hook: One otherwise normal morning in Central Park, everyone starts to commit suicide, and then the behavior starts to spread, as if it were airborne, throughout the Northeast.
At the relatively safe distance of Philadelphia, high school science teacher Elliot (Mark Wahlberg) and his increasingly distant wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) watch the news and try to make sense of what is transpiring. Is it a virus? Toxic gas? A terrorist attack? Just when you thought there couldn't be any more evil that could be invented, Alma says sadly.
Then people in Philly start killing themselves, and the couple goes on the run with Elliot's best friend (John Leguizamo) and his young daughter (Ashlyn Sanchez). But where to? Like War of the Worlds and Cloverfield, The Happening pointedly invokes Sept. 11 in its evocation of Americans reacting to a large-scale, incomprehensible calamity that has no precedent.
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