'The Happening' Finally Screens For Critics And The Results Are Not Pretty

ManojWatch has been underway at Defamer long enough to know that the director's latest, The Happening, faces a bit of an uphill climb when it reaches theaters at last this Friday. But while previously we'd only had one anonymous review and a pair of introspective pre-mortems with the "press-shy" Shyamalan — the latest appearing yesterday in the LA Times — the film officially screened for press for the first time on Sunday evening. Naturally 20th Century Fox lost our invitation (and thus, we suppose, instructions for a review embargo — we'll never know!) in the mail, but we heard from a reviewer who was there and has new word on Manoj's Folly:

The only big observation I would add to the earlier review it is that The Happening doesn't deserve as many words as the tipster gave to it. The film fails in every respect, but it's also really, really boring. The conflict follows such a simple outline and the plot structure dissipates after a few minutes, and you're left with a bunch of people on the road fleeing an invisible force for the rest of the running time: Little Miss Sunshine as a horror film. It's bad, but not even ambitious enough for viewers to enjoy the stinking muck.

Yikes. More spoilerrific details, including background on Shyamalan's First! Ever! R-rating! after the jump.

The Happening is all concept and no execution. You can see the ideas that gave rise to the film, but there's no film there. Mark Wahlberg is a science teacher grappling with some... science-y disaster. Wahlberg and wife Zooey Deschanel have to overcome their marital problems in order to stay alive. Blah blah. They get scared, head to the field, join with other survivors and run, run, run. There is so much running. They're scared, but they don't know what scares them. This is standard Shyamalan turf, but none of his past films have felt this bland

Even the suicides, which earn the film its R-rating, feel strangely uninspired. The sight of people jumping from buildings or shooting themselves are predictable and thus not frightening. One exception: A great long shot of a car crash that's followed by another horrendous act done in such a cool-headed manner that it truly chilled me.

But that's one good shot. It's padded by the shallow melodrama of Wahlberg and Deschanel's characters, and Shyamalan's cheap use of heavy violence presumably for no other reason beyond making the audience go, "What the fuck?" I'm mainly referring to a scene involving child death, but really, the whole movie is like one big WTF. If you've heard the line from the trailer, "There appears to be an event happening," then you've heard it all. And you've heard enough.

Maybe the real twist here is that the movie doesn't actually open on Friday, but just continues to exist in a world of inverse hype. Anyone else got a better idea?