The Happening Star Reflects on the Disappointing Reactions to the M. Night Shyamalan Movie

Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan scored major successes with critics and audiences alike with films The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, only to then release of a string of disappointments, with one of his biggest blunders arguably being the 2008 film The Happening. While there's a number of factors at play when it comes to why the film was a failure both critically and financially, star Zooey Deschanel recently reflected on the experience and thinks that audiences weren't entirely prepared for the stylized tone of the adventure, yet also pointed out that she doesn't feel like the horror genre is entirely in her wheelhouse.

"That film was pretty universally not loved! The director, M. Night Shyamalan -- Night -- had a strong vision and we were all trying to do what he wanted," Deschanel explained to The Guardian. "I trusted him, because he's a great filmmaker. I didn't know until I saw the film, but I think he was going for a stylized horror, like The Birds, and maybe people didn't get that. I had a blast working with Night and Mark Wahlberg, but while I've done serious drama, I'm not sure I fit with thrillers. I find most joy in doing comedy."

Sitting at only 17% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, The Happening surely wasn't Shyamalan's first miss, but it was one of his most notable. Prior to the 2008 film's release, The Village scored only 43% positive reviews while Lady in the Water sits at only 25%. His next two directorial efforts were also underwhelming, with The Last Airbender sitting at only 5% positive and After Earth only earning 12% positive reviews.

In the film, multiple inexplicable incidents occur with victims participating in fatal acts of self-harm, with the tragedies impacting anyone in specific locations. Initially believed to be some localized terror attacks involving gas that cause hallucinations or violent behavior, survivors attempt to flee heavily populated areas. While the explanation for the incident is kept relatively vague, the closest answer audiences get is that plants are releasing a toxin that causes humans to harm themselves, serving as a defense mechanism against the pollution humans have caused. 

One likely explanation for the film's lackluster reception is that Shyamalan set a precedent with multiple films that his outings would have surprising reveals in a film's final scenes that explain everything that came before it. With The Happening offering a half-hearted explanation halfway through, many audiences were hoping for a more concrete justification of the events that unfolded. Instead, the film did resemble Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds by denying audiences a complete picture of the events, which includes the ambiguity of how the horrors come to an end.

Stay tuned for details on future M. Night Shyamalan projects.

What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!