Not much ‘Happening’ here

Not much ‘Happening’ here

If you get scared by stiff winds and the sight of a deranged Betty Buckley, then “The Happening” is the film for you.

If not, the biggest fright here is wasting 90 minutes on M. Night Shyamalan’s latest misfire.

“The Happening” confirms what many film goers feared. Early rumors of Shayamalan’s genius were greatly exaggerated. Now, seeing his name attached to a thriller is a warning beacon, not an invitation written in blood.

“The Happening” involves a toxin-like attack on the Northeastern U.S. There’s something in the air causing people to grab the nearest blunt instrument and smack themselves with it until they die.

And people are dying – in droves.

Enter a high school science teacher named Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), who gathers up his wife (a dazed Zooey Deschanel) and tries to outrun the winds bringing the mind-altering toxins.

But how do you escape something you can’t see, smell or touch? Better yet, how do you craft a thriller out of such ethereal parts? There’s a good concept buried within “The Happening,” but Shyamalan isn’t capable of so much as glimpsing its potential. He wastes a chilling setup, a game leading man and whatever’s left of his tattered film cred on a story that’s downright boring when it isn’t laughably silly.

It’s like a remake of Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” but minus the aliens, special effects and tension.

And “The Happening” ends with such a monumental whimper it’s hard not to imagine ticket buyers clenching their fists as they march out of the theater.

Shyamalan was once dubbed “the next Spielberg.” What in the world happened?

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