The Happening parents guide

The Happening Parent Guide

Overall C

Something strange is happening in the eastern United Sates. It appears that a deadly plague is sweeping across the country. Although they can't quite get a grasp on how devastating this problem may be, Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife (Zooey Deschanel) flee their home in a desperate race to outpace the mysterious epidemic.

Release date June 12, 2008

Violence D
Sexual Content A-
Profanity B-
Substance Use A

Why is The Happening rated R? The MPAA rated The Happening R for violent and disturbing images.

Parent Movie Review

M. Night Shyamalan is known for his ability to use the mundane to create extraordinary suspense. The problem is he is so well recognized for this technique, along with his super-twisty endings (his most noted being The Sixth Sense) that anything else leaves the audience feeling shortchanged.

You better hang on to your coins…

In The Happening people unexpectedly start acting strange. It all begins in NYC’s Central Park where people suddenly freeze like they are playing a game of Simon Says. Then they find the most convenient way to kill themselves. Some use hairpins, others borrow a policeman’s gun. Construction workers calmly walk off the top of a building and hit the pavement with a thud.

Hearing of the trouble in the Big Apple, officials in Philadelphia warn their citizens to leave the city. Schoolteacher Elliot Moore and his wife Alma (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) join the surprisingly orderly exodus, along with Elliot’s work buddy Julian (John Leguizamo) and his little daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). But their escape to the Pennsylvania countryside comes to a grinding halt when the train pulls the brakes in a little town. The explanation offered to Elliot—who seems to be the only passenger wondering why they are stopped—is the train has “lost contact” with everyone else. Strange, because passengers are still using their cell phones…

If you get caught up in logic during this film, you will soon find yourself wishing you had more popcorn. Instead, the creator of this picture is hoping you will buy into the big mystery of why people are committing suicide in the most bizarre ways possible. (Strangely, the deaths become so far fetched the audience in my screening began chuckling while a zookeeper fed his arms to hungry lions and when a man was mowed over by a giant lawn tractor.)

Obviously this film, which is Shyamalan’s first project to get branded with a R-rating in the US, isn’t suitable for younger audiences or those who would be disturbed by such portrayals. Thankfully, content in other categories is limited to a few mild profanities and terms of deity, along with one mild sexual remark.

Sadly, the greatest issue with this film is its lack of entertainment. Shyamalan (who acts as writer and director) clearly has talent, yet it feels as though he’s trying too hard this time. As well, the performances are forced and the concept just doesn’t come together. Certainly it’s hard to live up to the grand endings he created in his earlier work, but with this adventure you leave wondering if anything was happening.

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, M. Night Shyamalan.. Theatrical release June 12, 2008. Updated

The Happening
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Happening rated R? The Happening is rated R by the MPAA for violent and disturbing images.

This thriller’s biggest issue for parents are the depictions of various people taking their own lives with a variety of methods, like shooting themselves with guns, stabbings with pointed objects and falling from buildings. Some of these are particularly explicit, for instance lions in a zoo bite off a man’s arms. Another character lies down in front of a large lawnmower, and we see the mower driving over him. Another scene shows two young people being killed by a person with a shotgun—one of the shootings is seen on screen. There are many moments of peril and tension, including “jump” scenes. A number of mild profanities are heard along with terms of deity. A mild sexual comment is heard.

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The Happening Parents' Guide

M. Night Shyamalan uses colors in his films as themes. For example, the color red was a cue in The Sixth Sense. What is the predominant color in this movie? What message do you think he was trying to convey with this choice?

How does the use of everyday situations or objects to create terror leave you thinking about a movie afterwards? Why are the mundane things in life sometimes more terrifying than fantastical situations?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Happening movie is October 7, 2008. Here are some details…

The Happening happens on with a making-of documentary (Visions of The Happening), four featurettes (covering everything from a day-in-the-life of Night to special effects), deleted scenes (with introductions from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan) and a gag reel.

The Happening is also available on Blu-ray Disc. This version offers all of the above mentioned extras, plus a digital copy of the movie, and more featurettes.

Audio tracks are provided in 5.1 Dolby Surround (English) and Dolby Surround (Spanish and French), with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.

Related home video titles:

M. Night Shyamalan, the writer and director of this film, has helmed several other films in the suspense thriller/supernatural genre. These include: The Sixth Sense, The Village, Lady in the Water and Signs. In the movie The Invasion, something mysterious is infecting people and turning them into zombie-like creatures.