Ever since ‘The Sixth Sense’, Shyamalan has been recognised for a certain style; films of a particular supernatural, suspenseful and serendipitous nature (and let’s not forget the ever-present Shyamalan-twist). Love or hate him, the man has (a) style and in honour of his latest film ‘The Happening’ bing released on DVD this weeknd, we present to you the Shyamalan-Scale – the best to worst of M. Night Shyamalan’s films to date (Note: the scale reflects his work from the Sixth Sense onwards).
(1) The SIXTH SENSE
The 1999 Academy Award nominated film which shot Shyamalan to instant fame was by no means a certainty. The film, which told the story of Cole Sear, a troubled boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to be able to see and talk to the dead and an equally troubled child psychologist (Bruce Willis), was given a very limited release at 9 screens in the UK. After entering the charts at #8, the film climbed up to #1 the following week with 430 theatres playing the film. The film established Shyamalan as a writer and director, and introduced the cinema public to his some Shyamalan signatures: his appearance in cameo roles and his affinity for twist endings (never more naturally/affectively done than in ‘The Sixth Sense’).
With ‘Signs’, Shyamalan proves once again an expert at building suspense and giving audiences the chills without overindulging in visuals. The sci-fi thriller centres on a family attempting to survive the arrival of aliens on earth and the seemingly unrelated events which lead to their survival. This well paced atmospheric picture had us on the edge of our seats (remember the scene with Mel Gibson searching the cornfields and briefly catching a glimpse of a foot in the field? It still gives us chills!).
(3) THE VILLAGE
The story of a small community whose inhabitants are plagued by fear of the unknown forest that surrounds them. For years, they have kept a truce with mysterious creatures in the woods by vowing never to breach a clearly defined border. However, when a young man (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes determined to explore the nearby towns, his actions are met with menacing consequences. With ‘The Village’, Shyamalan manages to maintain the suspense and atmosphere of his previous films but a poor, predictable ending makes it average at best…
(4) LADY IN THE WATER
With ‘Lady in the Water’, Shyamalan pulls out all his old tricks to self-indulgent effect (even casting himself as a Jesus type figure within the film). The film’s solid cast are not used to their fullest in this convoluted tale of nymphs, narfs and other strange beings. It won two Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actor (M. Night Shyamalan) and Worst Director (M. Night Shyamalan). At least it didn’t pick up the remaining two it was nominated for: Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay (written by M. Night Shyamalan).
With all its promise of a genuine superhero, ‘Unbreakable’ was a major disappointment. The film centres on Bruce Willis’ character David Dunn. After surviving a massive train wreck that kills 131 people, David (unharmed and as the only survivor) is contacted by a man (Samuel L. Jackson) who proposes to a disbelieving Dunn that he is, in fact, a modern day superhero. Willis delivers a fine performance throughout the film but the major let down here is Samuel L. Jackson’s character, who is, at best, silly. While ‘Unbreakable’ is, overall, a better film than ‘Lady In The Water’, we still rank it worst film. Our reasoning – this was a truly original idea from Shyamalan, only let down by his execution… poor form Shammy, poor, poor form.
DISCUSS: What are your views on Shyamalan? Has he lost it? Did he ever have it? Are the critics being unfair? Where does The Happening rank among the Shyamalan-Scale?
Don’t forget, you can leave your review of the film here.
‘The Happening’ is available to buy on DVD in Ireland from October 31st 2008.