Zooey Deschanel: ‘The Happening’ Was ‘Stylized Horror’ and ‘Maybe People Didn’t Get That’

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Most actors have at least one dud at some point in their career, and for Zooey Deschanel it’s M. Night Shyamalan’s widely mocked 2008 horror movie “The Happening.” The “500 Days of Summer” and “Elf” actor starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in the film, which centers on a group of individuals fighting to survive an outbreak of mysterious mass suicides. Shyamalan’s notorious twist in the film is that trees are releasing toxins that are causing the deaths.

“The director, M. Night Shyamalan – Night – had a strong vision and we were all trying to do what he wanted,” Deschanel recently explained to The Guardian (via IndieWire). “I trusted him, because he’s a great filmmaker. I didn’t know until I saw the film, but I think he was going for a stylized horror, like ‘The Birds,’ and maybe people didn’t get that.”

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Deschanel added, “I had a blast working with Night and Mark Wahlberg, but while I’ve done serious drama, I’m not sure I fit with thrillers. I find most joy in doing comedy.”

Wahlberg, Deschanel and Shyamalan have long had to endure the wrath of “The Happening’s” critical beatdown. Speaking at a press conference for “The Fighter” in 2013, Wahlberg revealed that Amy Adams was in contention for “a bad movie” he did and that she “dodged a bullet” by turning it down.

“I don’t want to tell you what movie…alright, ‘The Happening.’ Fuck it. It is what it is,” Wahlberg said at the time. “Fucking trees, man. The plants. Fuck it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook.”

Shyamalan explained to Vulture in 2019 that the “The Happening” didn’t land with critics and audiences because of its tone, which he hoped would make the film feel like a B-movie. The director admitted his desired tone was “inconsistent,” adding, “That’s why they couldn’t see it.”

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