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File:The happening1.jpg

 "Plastic. I'm talking to a plastic plant. I'm still doing it."

A 2008 film by M. Night Shyamalan.

Something big is going down: people all over the East Coast start to kill themselves for no reason, and there's no explanation as to the mass suicides. High school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) tries to escape New York City -- where the suicides began -- with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), fellow teacher Julian (John Leguizamo), and Julian's daughter Jess.

The movie takes a Hitchcockian approach to the horror -- the suicides merely happen without explanation -- until somebody does explain it: plants, as a warning to humanity, are emitting a neurotoxin that makes a person's survival instinct kick into reverse.

Compare Alive: The Final Evolution.


The film provides examples of:

  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: For some reason, the film's R rating was a huge marketing point.
  • Behind the Black: Funny how the characters don't notice the bodies hanging from the trees until the camera reveals them, even though they had been driving straight towards them for a good 30 seconds.
  • Broken Green Aesop: Even if you accept the premise of global warming as a trigger, the result is just plain stupid. It's something plants would like. Why would they try to stop it?
    • It makes more sense if you replace "global warming" with "pumping pollutants into the environment," and that global warming would make some areas more arid, but still.
    • Not to mention that humanity as a whole is not known for being pushovers that, when attacked, wince and politely ask to stop. A comment from TNR sums up why that would mess up the Green Aesop:

 Everyone seems to assume the obvious lesson to take is that we'd better treat nature nicer lest it decide to start wiping us out again. Allow me to suggest, contrarily, that if millions of Americans were killed by some tree-originated pathogen that could be released again at any time, the immediate result would not be a renewed enthusiasm for peaceful coexistence, but rather a program of deforestation so aggressive it'd make the Brazilian lumber industry look like tree huggers.

Chris Orr, The New Republic

    • In addition, it seems to originate each time in a city park. As in, plants raised by humans and tended by humans. Are they killing everyone on the East Coast as some way of rebelling against their parents or something? While the intent might be to build confusion about the toxin's origin, it just leads to the conclusion that we need to avoid plants entirely and burn down those parks before they communicate with other plants.
  • Babies Ever After: Alma is revealed to be pregnant at the end.
  • The Cameo: M. Night Shyamalan as Joey, with whom Alma had an affair. Although his character is never seen.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Or, in this case, a Crazy Doll Lady.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Really, really obvious one - the two rooms where you can hear whatever the person in the other room is saying.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Whenever the characters need any sort of exposition they can find a broadcast, regardless of wherever they are, whether it be the abandoned truck, or the radio in the middle of the field (that no one bothered to take with them), or the montage of other people all over the US watching the TV News.

 News Reporter: An unconfirmed source says the government is responsible.

  • Cute Mute: Jess, who rarely speaks until the very end.
  • Disposable Pilot: The Jeep driver.
  • Driven to Suicide: Technically, the plants drive a bunch of people to suicide.
  • Dull Surprise: The reaction to the mass suicides isn't as expressive as one might expect.
  • Emotionless Girl: Alma, more or less, spends most of the movie in Dull Surprise mode, and states at the beginning "I don't like to show my emotions."
    • It's almost impossible to listen to that line without thinking that it wasn't originally in the script, and that Shyamalan just added it in light of Deschanel's famously emotionless acting.
  • The End - or Is It?: The end of the film, where it appears that the whole thing starts over again in France.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The plants suddenly evolve the ability to emit neurotoxin. All species of plants. Simultaneously.
  • Expospeak: Alan Ruck explains the symptoms at the beginning to the other teachers. Later, the nursery owner explains plants' ability to release chemicals. Mrs. Jones explains the speaker in the springhouse.
  • Fake Food: In a gag which runs on a little long.
  • Fridge Horror: Does anyone else wonder what happened to the suicidal infants and very young children after the adults succeeded at suicide?
  • Gaia's Vengeance
  • Gorn: Apparently someone realized that people were just laughing at the answer to the "mystery", so commercials for the DVD release are exclusively focusing on the deaths, and how it's Shyamalan's first R rated film, ignoring the whole mystery bit.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: The Private's use of "Cheese and Crackers!" as an exclamation, and the construction worker's use of the word "thing" for "penis" feel a little bit out of place in an R-Rated film.
  • Green Aesop
  • Humans Are Bastards: This is thought to be the reason for the plants' sudden "evolution" and revolt against humanity. Additionally, in one scene, a guy shoots two teens because he doesn't want them coming into his house.
  • Idiot Ball: This is what gets the two teens killed. Trying to force your way into a boarded-up house whose owner does not want you letting in whatever "poison gas" is outside is a very stupid idea. Also, when one character realises the toxin is coming through a slit in the roof of their SUV, why didn't he trying plugging it? His tie would have fit perfectly.
    • "Plastic. I'm talking to a plastic plant. I'm still doing it."
    • If they knew that people were killing themselves somehow, why didn't the MP throw his gun away? Or, for that matter, anyone else in the group? Sure, it wouldn't have stopped them in the long run, but still...talk about easy access!
    • Everyone acts surprised that everything in the model house is fake despite the fairly noticeable "Model House" sign out front.
    • A very general example: Everyone in this film, all the time, period. The only genuinely smart people were the two ladies wearing gas masks while watching the TV. I mean, think about it: If you heard there are airborne neurotoxins outside, what would you do? It's unbelievable that almost nobody in this movie actually tries something as simple as just not frigging going outside. This goes for the officials as well. Do you have any idea how stupid it would be to evacuate a city like New York during a chemical attack unless it's absolutely necessary? All it would accomplish would be exposing even more people to the toxins and causing chaos, traffic jams and panic. Just so you know, in a case like this here is what you SHOULD do.
    • "They're coming after the groups..." Two minutes later: "Stay in groups!"
  • Infant Immortality: Averted when the two teens get shot.
  • Made of Plasticine: The man being (very easily) torn apart by lions.
  • The Meadow Run: Okay, it's more like the Meadow Walk; but still, it's played completely straight.
  • No Endor Holocaust: After only three months, there are plenty of people left in Philadelphia to operate the city again. We see people walking down the street, kids going to school, the power and utilities are running - all this a mere three months after a majority of the estimated 55 million people in the Northeast (including Philly itself), have presumably committed messy suicide where they were standing.
    • Widespread mass death during an economic recession would certainly help increase the number of job openings...
    • Not to mention the question of what to do with 55 million corpses. Besides the health risks, where is the money for the cleanup gonna come from? And what of all the chemicals that are suddenly released?
  • Non Sequitur Thud
  • No Peripheral Vision: When Elliot walks up to the truck with the open door, only after looking through it does he notice the house in the distance. He then points it out to everyone else who was looking in that direction already, and they notice it.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here
  • Orphaned Punchline:

 Construction Worker: - and little guy says "You have a girlfriend named Wendy, too? Well, I saw your thing and it says 'WY'." And the big guy says "Noooo man. Mine says 'Welcome to Jamaica, have a nice day.'"

    • The missing part of the joke is "Two guys are standing at adjacent urinals, and they both notice the have the letters "WY" tattooed on their penises."
  • Poor Communication Kills: The group gets all the way through dinner with Mrs. Jones before deciding to mention the event.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: When the police officer and others shoot themselves. Odd, given the gory scenes in other parts.
  • Product Placement: When Elliot tells them to stop the car because of the bodies on the road, the next shot is the wheel stopping with the word "Jeep" on the hubcap perfectly lined up horizontally and readable.
  • The Power of Love: The plants just happen to stop emitting the neurotoxin minutes before Elliot and Alma decide to go outside and hug. In the original script, the subtext became text and it was literally The Power of Love.
  • The Unfair Sex: Apparently a woman having a casual lunch with a male friend would make said woman a bastard that needs redemption. Elliot later pretends that he pretended to be injured so he could see a hot nurse. Yeah, because that's totally the same thing and deciding to fuck with your spouse after said spouse admitted her (misplaced) guilt to you during a FUCKING PLAGUE is totally moral and not at all dickish.
  • Red Shirt: Quite a few characters have shirts are redder than roses, redder than poinsettias.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Disappearing Bees, Terrorist Attacks, Global Warming, etc. The film is just a grab bag of topical terrors.
    • Did Not Do the Research: Even before the movie was made, the most credible theories regarding Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees hinged around naturally-occurring immunodeficiency and fungal pathogens (i.e., not human-caused).
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum: The mass genocide of humans by plants is described by Elliot Moore as something that just "happened", rather than an unprecedented biological phenomena.
  • Shaped Like Itself
  • Sole Survivor: In the beginning, and in the end in France, only one random person isn't affected by the neurotoxins, and Forced to Watch everyone kill themselves.
  • Shout-Out: Jess has an Avatar: The Last Airbender backpack in the end. Foreshadowing things to come.
  • Space Whale Aesop
  • Television Geography: The real Filbert, PA is near Uniontown, PA, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh - this puts it very far from the eastern part of the state that the guy in the restaurant points out on the TV screen, and well past their train’s stated destination of Harrisburg. The actual town has no rail service, either.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: Spencer Breslin's character's narmtastic line "Open this door, bitch!"
  • Too Soon: People voluntarily jumping off a building in Manhattan as a result of (what is initially thought of as) a terrorist attack brings flashes of 9/11.
  • When Trees Attack: And how!
  • You Fail SCIENCE Forever: There are many examples of this in the movie. The science class in the beginning is one of the most unscientific biology classes imaginable. Basically, the teacher says that "Nature Did It" IS an acceptable scientific explanation.
    • Hell, even a non-science class wouldn't find such answers adequate because, big surprise, at school you're meant to learn things. If you could just shrug your shoulders and say 'it's unknowable so don't even try to understand it' you'd just get an F.
  • You Fail Logic Forever: If one's survival instinct was erased, which is what the film claims the neurotoxin does, one would simply go on as normal until one ran into something deadly and didn't bother to get out of the way. A lack of survival instinct does not equal the compulsion to commit suicide in any way.
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