The Rise and Fall of M Night Shyamalan

  The Rise and Fall of M Night Shyamalan

M Night Shyamalan’s rise and fall is the stuff of greek mythology (or maybe greek tragedy).  M Night was born in India in 1970 but raised in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, and was thought of as an adopted son in the area.  I’m also from a suburb of Philadelphia and I’ve admired the way M Night filmed the city and his devotion to using the area in all of his movies.  I enjoyed the sense of menace and dread in his earlier works and the way he smoothly worked the camera.  His films used to have an eerie, otherworldly quality.  Something has happened though along the way to “Night”, the otherworldly quality has turned to a slow molasses and his films lay there on the screen, dead on arrival.  Lady in the Water was pure torture, one of the worst films ever made.  It didn’t start with that film though, M Night’s rise and fall began with a little film called The Sixth Sense, and is still going on, with the release of his latest film, The Happening.  Whatever happened to the guy who worshipped Spielberg and Hitchcock ? Is he an egomaniac, a misunderstood genius, or a whining baby who needs his rattle?  This is the place for answers as I take an in-depth and unbiased look at M Night’s spectacular rise and current death spiral.

M Night Shyamalan came out of nowhere with The Sixth Sense.  A modestly budgeted (for a major studio film) little thriller with some terrific acting and a twist that knocked everyone on their collective asses.  Night was hailed as a genius due to his tight scripting and extremely effective camerawork.  A palpaple sense of dread made the film’s ending even more effective.  M Night’s next film was the underrated Unbreakable, an homage to comic books and brooding superheroes starring Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson’s ridiculous hairdo.  The film was a hit but nowhere near the blockbuster that The Sixth Sense was.  Night was heartbroken that the film didn’t fully connect with audiences and plans for sequels to Unbreakable were put on hold and may never be made. 

After a mixed reaction to Unbreakable, Shyamalan came back with Signs. The film starred Mel Gibson and braved very mixed reviews and audience reaction to gross a small fortune. The film has some major problems though.  It’s not just the fact that the film isn’t very logical (it’s about aliens after all), its just that the film isn’t very good. The “low key” acting of the former Mad Max was the beginning of what I deemed the “M Night trance”, or put more simply, when good actors give awful performances due to M Night’s direction. Bruce Willis was effectively low key in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable but Mad Mel was practically comatose during Signs.  The mood of dread that followed around the characters in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable became as stale and crusty as an old loaf of supermarket Italian bread.  The beginning of the box office decline was the much-ridiculed film The Village. Suffering from a terrible ending, the film started big but died a quick death at the US box office. I didn’t see The Village and when I was told the ending (it was spoiled for me by some vengeful virgin one dark night in a movie chat room) I didn’t believe the ending was true. I couldn’t believe Night had sunk so low as to use a warmed over Outer Limits ending that made the audience feel that they were duped. Radio stations in Philly lit up with angry moviegoers who were expecting a monster movie and got a ham-fisted parable that wouldn’t pass muster on a third rate episode of the modern Outer Limits series. The M Night downfall was in full effect, the train had left the station, and it hasn’t been able to stop ever since.

Early one Friday morning I made the biggest mistake of my movie-going life. I went out to see Lady in the Water. I had hoped M Night’s “bedtime fable” would be a return to form and an interesting fantasy film. I’m a sucker for a good fantasy film (Stardust was my fav film of last year and Prince Caspian has been my fav film so far this summer) and I was hoping Shyamalan would deliver a good one. I was wrong. Lady in the Sewer was unwatchable, filled with terrible acting, and worst of all, it was boring as Hell. Lady in the Water featured snarfs and teletubbies and “grass creatures” and a giant eagle that would come along to the ratty motel and save the world………..clearly, M Night had a breakdown. Worst of all, he cast himself in a major supporting role as get this, Jesus Christ. M Night saves the world in the film because of his writing. He overcomes his writers block (but not his own awful acting) just in the nick of time. The best character in the film was the “baddie”, a cynical film critic brooding about how nothing is ever original anymore. Night meant this as a commentary on his own critics, but unwittingly he was the most interesting character in the entire film, and probably the most likable. Lady in the Water was the worst film of 2006 and a box office disappointment.

M Night Shyamalan seems to be continuing his downward spiral with his latest film, The Happening. This film has perhaps the dumbest ending of all time. The ending was revealed to me by a pal, saving me 8.50. I haven’t actually seen the film (and never will) so I can’t comment on the film as a whole. After a just OK opening of 30 million bucks last weekend, I expect this puppy to fall fast. M Night seems to be a victim of his own success. An egomaniac who doesn’t take criticism well at all and lashes out at anyone who dislikes his so-called “vision.” As a former fan of Mr. Shyamalan, I am hoping he snaps out of his funk with the quickness. The good will he has built up is vanishing faster than a cold cup of Rita’s water ice on a hot, muggy summer day in the City of Brotherly Love.

pixel The Rise and Fall of M Night Shyamalan

More fun articles: