The Happening, the 2008 film by infamous director M. Night Shyamalan, is a classic bad movie. There are tons of Youtube videos with millions of views tearing it apart, dissecting its nonsense, absurdity, and hilarity. If you've ever seen one of those videos and thought the movie looked funny but too stupid to actually sit down and watch for 90 minutes, here's a way to make the experience more fun. However, having now seen the movie myself, I will say that it's insane enough that it doesn't even need alcohol to enhance it. Although it's practically universally acknowledged as a bad movie, if you sincerely love this movie, or any of the movies I will ever describe as "bad," please know that badness is not an objective trait or even a negative quality. All movies can bring joy and are art.
My stock list of rules can be found here, which applies to pretty much any movie my boyfriend and I watch. On top of that, we always come up with our own rules specially tailored to that particular movie. The following list was partially prepared before watching the movie, partially created as we watched and began asking the question: is this a joke? Drink whenever you feel/observe:
Like all of Shyamalan's movies, The Happening has strong themes that are reinforced throughout. Math is one of those themes. It's been a while since I watched it, so it's hard to remember what exactly the point of the math is, but boy, is it ever there. Whenever Mark Wahlberg or John Leguizamo start talking about math apropos of nothing, take a drink.
2. News footage
Using footage of news broadcasts isn't unique to this movie, or to bad movies, but it can be an easy way to dump a bunch of exposition at once. This is a disaster movie, meaning restaurants full of strangers gathering around a TV in wrapt horror is a must. In The Happening, you also get to see diners watching the news in the form of a Youtube video on a 2008 smartphone.
3. Extreme close ups
I have no idea why the movie is shot like this, but conversations are delivered in disconcertingly, pointlessly, absurdly close-up shots. It seems to be a trend among Shyamalan movies: The Last Airbender and Old had the same problem. Close-ups are not inherently bad at all, they're an important part of film language. They convey intensity and give the actor a chance to show exactly what the character is feeling. But when entire conversations are shot with nothing but close-ups, for seemingly no reason, it becomes so absurd it's just funny. At this point, one starts to wonder: Is this a joke?
4. Is this a joke?
This movie is very, very funny. With most bad movies, you can tell that the filmmakers were trying to make something serious but failed, which leads to comedy. But The Happening is so strange, so baffling, and so funny, that we started to wonder if it was intentional. Some of it must be, right? Right??? Whenever you're not sure, take a drink.
5. Insane writing
I believe that Shyamalan is actually a great story writer and director, he just happens to make terrible movies sometimes. But whether or not they're good, they're always efficient, thematically consistent, and trying to have something to say. However, Shyamalan is very inconsistent at writing dialogue. Some of the strangest, most insanity-inducing dialogue you'll ever hear can be found in this movie.
6. Bad acting
This is an obvious one, and by far the easiest for Youtube clips and commentary videos to point to. The clip of Mark Wahlberg's conversation with an old lady in a hallway, where both of them are talking as if they're aliens and Wahlberg caps it off with the "What? No!" that will live in infamy, is the first footage I ever saw from this movie. The clip of Wahlberg arguing with Zooey Deschanel in a field is so baffling that when I first saw it over a decade ago, I assumed there had to be some kind of context that would make their bizarre performances make sense. It turns out, it's just bad acting. Not every performance in the movie is bad: John Leguizamo and Jeremy Strong (of later Succession fame) deliver surprisingly great, if minor, performances. This is always the case in Shyamalan's movies: leading roles are stilted and alien, while side characters give strong performances that unfortunately only makes the leads look even weaker by comparison. The bad acting is everywhere in this movie, so when you see it, take a drink.
7. Ominous trees
This isn't just a disaster movie, it's also a monster/horror/thriller movie. You can tell it's a monster movie because every once and a while, there's a shot of some trees in the distance with a low note playing. Terrifying.
The Happening turned out to be one of my favourite bad movie drinking games of all time. It's so funny, so serious, so insane, and it never gets boring for a second. Instead, it keeps finding new, unexpected ways to shock the audience and make you laugh. It kicked off a streak of Shayamalan movie nights for me and my boyfriend. We did drinking games for Old, After Earth, and The Last Airbender, which led to two more great bad movie night (guess which is the odd one out). But we also watched The Sixth Sense and Signs, which I had never seen before and still hold up as excellent movies. Good or bad, I can't wait to see what Shyamalan does next.