“The Happening” stars Mark Walberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, and the dreaded Spencer Breslin. It’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village, Unbreakable and Signs).

This paranoid apocalyptic thriller centers on a couple named Elliot and Alma (Mark Walberg and Zooey Deschanel) and a little girl (Ashlyn Sanchez) on the run from an neurotoxin in the air. This toxin leads people to loose sense of direction, slurring of speech and finally leads them to kill themselves in innovative ways. Many theories about how this neurotoxin became present in the air, but all of these are just theories. But one thing is certain, it’s happening.

Critics aren’t being fair about M. Night Shyamalan’s newest thriller “The Happening”. It does switch gears from being a creepy and intriguing thriller, to being an intentionally goofy and silly ovation to paranoid thrillers of the 60’s like “The Birds”. However, this works out surprisingly well for some shuddering moments, occasional humor and a well executed finale. This is M. Night Shyamalan’s best film in years, topping his two previous films with ease and winking its eye along the way. Shyamalan sure knows how to please the audience. Even those who dislike the movie, the death of Spencer Breslin is sure to bring a guilty smile to anyone’s face.

The acting wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, shifting from mediocre to subpar levels. It’s not Mark Walberg and his impaired eyebrows and faded voice who failed for the entire act, but Zooey Deschanel who fails with her shallow and strange performance. She may have beautiful eyes, but her character has absolutely no soul. Why is this individual so one-dimensional? However the bystanders that switch into suicide mode give performances that are luculent and bring an eerie atmosphere. John Leguizamo only has one scene where his acting felt completely forced that involved calming a stranger down with a math riddle. The concept might come off as bit silly to some, but in retrospect this one of Shyamalan’s best ideas and his execution (though not completely polished) gives off a Hitchcock-esque vibe. Unlike “The Village”, its ending is complete and unlike “Lady in the Water”, its notion is something that will be admired.

The score is very unique and has a creepy tone unlike any other film. Like a neurotoxin in the air, this one might leave a permanent effect on litterbugs around the world. The intentional humor is being confused with unintentional humor, giving the film a bad reputation. Yes, there is bad acting present and occasionally dense line reading. But In the end, M. Night Shyamalan makes the ordinary extraordinary and does so with what seems like a new approach by adding comic relief to his signature style. I see a lot of talent behind this young filmmaker and his recovery from the embarrassing “Lady in the Water” exceeded my expectations by a landslide. I can now say with complete confidence that I am waiting for his next idea to be scripted, only hoping that it will be just as enjoyable as this one. 3.5/5 stars

 Written by Derek Fleek at www.popcornmonsters.com