M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, The Happening, was so terrible that Christopher Orr refused to write a proper review. Instead, he listed a "dozen and a half of the most mind-bendingly ridiculous elements of the film, which will enable you to marvel at its anti-genius without sacrificing (and I don't use that term lightly) 90 minutes of your life":
It is an astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined. It's the kind of movie you want to laugh about with friends, swapping favorite moments of inanity: "Do you remember the part when Mark Wahlberg ... ?" "God, yes. And what about that scene where the wind ... ?"
The problem, of course, is that to have such a conversation, you'd normally have to see the movie, which I believe is an unreasonably high price to pay just to make fun of it.
The single most absurd element of The Happening, the wellspring from which all other absurdities flow, is its conceit: Across the Northeastern United States, people are succumbing to a toxic airborne agent that makes them commit suicide, often gruesomely. At first it hits major population centers, followed by smaller towns, and on down to groups of even just a handful of people. Initially, it's assumed to be some kind of terrorist attack. But as we learn pretty early in the film, it's not. It's trees. Yes, the trees (and perhaps some bushes and grass, too, the movie's never too clear on this point) have tired of humankind's ecological despoilment and are emitting a complicated aerial neurotoxin that makes us kill ourselves en masse. I bet you wish you were the one who came up with this blockbuster idea.