Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #7

Re: The Happening (2008)

I wonder if you have seen M Night Shyamalan’s latest flick The Happening. All critics are crying foul and some are actually glad. These people say that finally it has been proved that M. Night Shyamalan is an untalented hack who committed career suicide. Is M. Night a misunderstood filmmaker or truly a hack? I think he has some talent and with a better script could make a better movie. What do you think?

The Happening is the first Shyamalan film since The Sixth Sense that I haven’t screened before it opened. In my book, every Shyamalan film since then has been less accomplished than the ones before it. Unbreakable was impressive but elusively incomplete and unsatisfying. Signs was thought-provoking but glaringly flawed. The Village was uninvolving and unsuccessful. And Lady in the Water was a disaster.

I do think Shyamalan has talent, but that talent is tied in knots that pull tighter and tighter with every film, crippling him creatively. My guess is that he became too successful too quickly and was unable to deal with the pressure of being THE M. Night Shyamalan — unable to live up to the idea of his own success, unable to critique himself, unable to see the world and his own work with ordinary eyes. A Tomatometer critic put it well by noting that for all Shyamalan’s complaints about being misunderstood, it seems he’s the one who doesn’t understand us.

At this point, I don’t think Shyamalan can save himself. A good tough agent might be able to do something, if Shyamalan were willing to be saved.

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