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The Ending Of The Happening Explained

"The Happening" is widely perceived by audiences to be one of writer and director M. Night Shyamalan's worst films, with a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One reason why the 2008 film is often criticized is that its storyline is ambiguous, and its ending left many scratching their heads in confusion. When people across the world begin dying violently through suicide for no apparent reason, a science teacher named Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), and his colleague Julian (John Leguizamo) seek refuge from an invisible threat in Pennsylvania's farmland, picking up other survivors along the way.

While there are many theories about the movie's plot and the reason for its deaths — including plants that communicate with one another, a biological weapon developed by aliens, or that it's Shyamalan's hidden attempt at deadpan comedy — it's perhaps best to look for hints dropped by Shyamalan himself during promotion for the film. 

The ending is revealed in the trailer

M. Night Shyamalan became an iconic filmmaker in the early 2000s by adding twists to stories such as "The Sixth Sense," so audiences expected a similar experience with "The Happening." However, the end of the movie sees the unexplained event suddenly disappear, allowing survivors to return to normal life. No clear explanation for what caused "the event" to occur is ever given, although the assumption is the deaths were caused by a toxin emitted from plant life. This is probably because the story's main protagonist is a science teacher who, in one famous scene, decides to talk to a plant after theorizing that the trees, flowers, and grass are working together to destroy humanity in an attempt to save the planet. 

However, Shyamalan told the press in 2008 that he was inspired to write the movie after reading Albert Einstein's biography, according to Gizmodo. Einstein rejected religion until he began to see "the hand of God" where no scientific explanation could be found. Shyamalan was also intrigued after learning undersea algae secrete toxins as self-defense, so he tried to marry science and religious faith for "The Happening." Essentially, this means there is no real explanation for the events in "The Happening," something foreshadowed in the film's trailer when Elliot says, "Science will come up with some reason to put in books, but in the end, it'll just be a theory. People fail to acknowledge there are forces at work beyond our understanding."

So, whether you believe plants were the culprit or not, your theory is as good as any other when it comes to the ending of "The Happening."