Since Signs, M. Night Shyamalan has come out with The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening, leading some to suggest that he’s lost his touch.  He certainly has fallen out of favor with critics (The Happening is 19% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (the movie grossed just over $60 million domestically and has a 5.4 on imdb).  So naturally, here’s where I’m going to defend him.

To me, The Happening masterfully created a constant sense of unease.  The characters never knew why things were unfolding as they were any more than the audience did.  There was just something wrong.  If there was genius in the plot of the movie, it was that there was no bad guy.  No one controlling things, no one to defeat.  Just varying degrees of panic.  And I think that’s what worked for the movie.  Every decision made by the characters could be a fatal one.  Each new character met is a desperate, yet ultimately unsuccessful, chance for any sort of information.  So this unease runs throughout nearly the entire movie.  The little bit of thrill of not knowing, where everything could be important, yet nothing is.  Where the answer to that ultimate question of “Why?” is constantly just beyond our grasp.

The Happening had plenty of flaws.  The dialogue got a bit hokey.  The plot structure was a bit odd and the ending was unsatisfying.  And I’m not sure the message or the way it was delivered was a big hit.  Just wanted to be clear on all that.  So, I’d like to suggest Shyamalan find himself a good writing partner.  Because I do think he has great ideas for stories, and a consistently excellent way of generating tension, he just needs some help ensuring his stories are told in an engaging manner.