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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Drama > The Happening (Fox Blu-ray) + The Sixth Sense (Disney Blu-ray)

The Happening (Fox Blu-ray) + The Sixth Sense (Disney Blu-ray)


Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: C+/B-     Film: C/B+



The Happening?  More like what’s happening…to M. Night Shyamalan that is.  After an epic breakout film debut with The Sixth Sense that would redefine horror films, M. Night Shyamalan has been spinning out of control in a downward spiral with his creative reputation being tainted by bad film after bad film.  Shyamalan had a solid second film with his comic book inspired Unbreakable in which he reunited with the Sixth Sense’s Bruce Willis and fellow blockbuster-maker Samuel L. Jackson.  Soon after the imaginative creativity of Unbreakable that made audiences believe that maybe this Shyamalan guy was something special, he began to pump out forgettable film after forgettable film.  Somehow living off of the success of his earlier films (and Stuart Little, I guess) Shyamalan has been allowed to make basically whatever he wanted, with multiple studios clamoring to back him.  Regardless of how bad his recent films have been, audiences continue to give him another chance as they spend their hard earned cash and night out at the movies with little ol’ M. Night.


What could have been an intriguing and mysterious cinematic experience quickly deviates into a goofy thriller that has moments of suspense with a dash of creativity, but more than anything the film is another letdown in the M. Night Shyamalan film catalog.  In New York City and soon throughout the entire Northeastern United States citizens have begun to inexplicably commit mass suicide, by whatever means was most convenient at the time.  The person first becomes somewhat delirious, then disoriented, and finally heads for the great beyond by any means possible.  At first the “suicide epidemic” is thought to be some unforeseen bio-terrorist attack, but it is soon apparent that there is much more to the oddities of the recent events.  The film follows Philadelphia teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) as he moves his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and fellow teacher Julian (John Leguizamo) and Julian’s daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) from Pennsylvania via train.  When the train comes to a screeching halt after losing radio contact with the rest of civilization, Julian decides to leave his daughter with Elliot and Alma in order to seek out his wife in Princeton, New Jersey.  Unfortunately, the suicidal pandemic that is overtaking the USA reaps havoc on the Jeep that Julian is traveling in.  Together Alma, Elliot, and Jess travel across the country meeting many individuals along the way as the mystery of the abrupt suicides begins to reveal itself.


The film has an array of odd elements that all seem to clash together and ultimately lead to its undoing.  It seems that Shyamalan had many goals for his latest film, but like a small child with A.D.D. Shyamalan’s tangential mentality leaves the viewer perplexed as the weak plot unravels slowly but surely with a wavering set of rules for the “suicide epidemic,” an underutilized cast, and an overall sense that the Director’s political agenda came before all else.  We get it, global warming sucks…be careful.  Whereas the world may be warming, Shyamalan’s talents are cooling and leaving audiences bitterly and frozenly unfulfilled.  The Happening was a money maker in theaters, but if Shyamalan does not start producing quality films like those of Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense, there surely won’t be much left happening with his career.


Speaking of The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan’s first born film child also just recently hit Blu-ray; and after almost 10 years impresses much more than The Happening.  The Sixth Sense was a cinematic and pop-culture phenomenon when it hit theaters in 1999 and to this day remains a horror favorite among fans; even if we all know the ending.


The Sixth Sense follows Child Psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who after an initial horrific and surprising home invasion by a former patient named Vincent (who Dr. Crowe was unable to help) is observed working with a new patient named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  It is apparent to Dr. Crowe that Cole astonishingly has a similar affliction to that of Vincent and it is his duty to help him at all costs.  While Dr. Crowe becomes obsessed with helping Cole his marriage is concurrently falling apart, as he never sees his wife and the couple is becoming increasingly distant; meanwhile Cole and his mother are at odds as she thinks he is acting out, but has no idea how to help him. It is when Cole reveals a shocking secret to Dr. Crowe that the film takes off; for Cole Sear can see dead people.  Cole has lived in fear of the ghosts that plague his daily life, but Dr. Crowe suggests that Cole should utilize his unique gift, rather than fear it, and help these beings that may have certain unfinished business.  The film evolves into a perplexing adventure that is unique, intriguing, and mysterious that keeps the viewer enthralled from beginning to end.


The fact of the matter is that The Sixth Sense is a horror/suspense classic.  M. Night Shyamalan’s original plunge into theatrical stardom was an epic feat in film that delivered in creativity, style, and exists as a purely enjoyable film that can be watched again and again.  This reviewer thinks The Sixth Sense was great then and just as good now.


The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray releases of the classic Sixth Sense and lackluster The Happening are extremely nice.  The picture on both features are presented in a high quality 1080p/AVC encoded 1.85 X 1 Widescreen that projects with a very nice crispness and precision that displays both interior, exterior, and even the darkest shots beautifully.  The films have very little (if any) significant noise or artifact, both boasting a great color display and beautiful texture details as Shyamalan’s all too common close-up shots hit the screen.  The sound is equally nice on the films with The Happening utilizing a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround and The Sixth Sense with its 5.1 Uncompressed (48kHz/16-bit).  Both films sound tracks maintain the ability to ‘boom’ when necessary and just as easily highlight the ambient noises with succinct precision.  The musical scores could project more evenly from the speakers and the dialogue is a bit heavy from the front at times, but for the most part the audio does flow nicely across the soundscape of all the speakers.


The extras on The Happening are adequate in number, but lacking in content.  All extras are presented in HD quality and include two Blu-ray exclusives not found on the standard DVD release.  The Blu-ray’s extras include Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel, and multiple featurettes.  The featurettes include Train Shooting Featurette, The Hard Cut Featurette, Forces Unseen Featurette, “I Hear You Whispering” Featurette, Visions of The Happening: A Making of Featurette, A Day for Night Featurette, and Elements of a Scene Featurette.  There is also the ability to use Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems and a Bonus View with Trivia Track for those who have Bonus View-enabled players.  Yes, there are many, many extra features on this Blu-ray release; but after sitting through the debacle that is M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film, there will be little too no desire to sit through hours of lackluster extras about an even more lackluster film.


The extras on The Sixth Sense are no where near as numerous as those on The Happening, they are about six times more interesting.  The extras include Deleted Scenes, a ‘Reflections From The Set’ featurette, Between Two Worlds Featurette, Moving Pictures: The Storyboard Process, Music and Sound Design, Reaching the Audience Featurette, Rules and Clues, and a publicity features that include trailers and TV Spots.  The extras are the same as those contained on the previous DVD releases, so don’t expect anything additional in terms of content or video quality (all in Standard Definition).  Some of the extras are annoying as Shyamalan boasts of “how great he is” and others are a nice reflection of the making of the film and the impact it had on audiences as well as the horror genre.  Overall, not the best extras by any means but better than those on The Happening.


Viewing Shyamalan’s breakout hit and latest film at the same make for an interesting comparison of where this film maker’s career has gone; or not gone.  Shyamalan was supposed to be a new visionary in Hollywood, but instead he has disappointed time and time again.  And audiences seem to have Shyamalan Amnesia as they go back for more about every two years when the once future visionary’s newest venture in cinema catastrophe hits the big screens.  I have a sick sense that this director thinks he is unbreakable, but the reality is that there are many signs happening that suggest if things don’t change his career is dead in the water.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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