The Happening (2008)
Box office: $64,506,874
Rotten Tomatoes score: 18%
What's the twist? The trees did it… I think.
Man, The Happening: What the fuck? It's not unreasonable to assume that Shyamalan, a highly sensitive guy, took the critical and commercial beating of Lady in the Water a little personally. When the movie you envision as your E.T. ends up being your Howard the Duck, you'd probably be shaken up too. This eco-thriller feels like a self-conscious peeling back of the ambition of his previous two movies; in interviews before its release, he emphasized it was "the best B-movie ever" and the violent R-rated kill scenes suggested Shyamalan was embracing his inner schlockmeister.
It's an awkward fit mostly because Mark Wahlberg -- playing a sweater-vest-wearing, mood-ring-sporting science teacher -- can't find the weary tone of most broken Shyamalan protagonists. He's all jittery eyebrows, high voice, and hilarious plant monologues. Zooey Deschanel doesn't fare much better as his wife, a character who recoils from her phone when it vibrates like it might murder her. Granted, in this movie, your phone might kill you -- everything is a threat when there's a Happening going on! For Shyamalan obsessives, this a fascinating study in intentionality: Was it supposed to be serious or campy? For everyone else, watching this movie is, as Wahlberg says to a little girl swinging on a rickety tree at one point, "maybe not a good idea??!!??"