For a long time I’ve been carefully watching for the end of the world. According to the Bible (the world’s most accurate and consistent book), the world will end in a fiery shit storm, ushered in by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, that time is here, albeit not in a form that anyone expected. In fact, all the pestilence, war, famine, and death are not coming literally, but figuratively in the world of cinema.
Horseman numero quatro is none other than M. Night Shyamalan. Actually, his name is Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan. I guess Night sounded cooler than Nelliyattu. Personally, I think he should just go with Shyamy, but that’s just me. Anyway, this guy’s films have grossed over $1 billion worldwide. That would make you think, “Oh wow, he must make some really great movies to bring in that kind of revenue.” Well, if you thought that, you’d be wrong. In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario where this guy’s movies even get financial backing let alone sell tickets. Here’s a sampling of his work:
- The Sixth Sense – OK, I actually liked this one, but so did everybody.
- Unbreakable – was ripped off to become the now-canceled TV series Heroes.
- Signs – It’s only natural for aliens who can be killed by water to invade a planet that is 70% H2O.
- The Village – plagiarized from a 1995 young adult book titled Running Out of Time. Well, it was plagiarized and then made much, much worse.
- Lady in the Water – Winner of Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor (Shyamalan), Worst Director, and Worst Picture by the Golden Raspberries in 2006.
- The Crappening – … err, sorry, The Happening.
- The Last Airbender – “THEY STOLE THE TITLE TO OUR AVATAR MOVIE!”
I don’t even know where to begin with ol’ Shyamy. Somehow this guy is able to get huge studio financial backing and land A-list actors time and time again. He’s able to do all this despite having horrible reviews every single time he makes a new movie. In fact, with each subsequent movie, his reviews get worse and worse. Rotten Tomatoes gives his films the following grades: The Sixth Sense 85%, Unbreakable 68%, Signs 74%, The Village 42%, Lady in the Water 24%, The Happening 18%, and The Last Airbender 6%. Let’s use a visual example to further illustrate (image from FilmDrunk).
Those are some unfuckingbelievably terrible numbers. With reviews that bad how can Shyamy get funding to keep shitting out turd after turd? Well, it must be that he draws in huge crowds and generates massive sales of his films, right? Nope, wrong again. With the exceptions of his first three movies, the next films he generated have barely kept afloat. For example, The Last Airbender cost $150 million to produce and $130 million to market, coming to a grand total of $280 million, which then generated $318 million in revenues. It made a grand total of $38 million in profit. Not a lot for a Hollywood studio. In comparison, Christopher Nolan’s similarly-budgeted film Inception cost $160 million to produce and $100 million to market (a grand total of $260 million – $30 million less than Shyamy’s movie) and it raked in $820 million in revenues, for a profit of $560 million. Quite a discrepancy, don’t you think? The film Shyamy made before that, The Crappening, barely made a profit, and the movie before that, Lady in the Water, was a massive commercial bomb. Now, if I was a movie studio, which employs thousands of people and costs millions to run, I wouldn’t bet on a guy who can hardly generate a profit, and is loathed by all the critics. In fact, I would probably cut and run. Oh wait, that already happened!
Shyamy’s movie Lady in the Water was originally intended to be produced by Disney, who had until this point produced his previous movies. According to the non-fiction book The Man Who Heard Voices, which was written about the Lady in the Water debacle, ol’ Shyamy had planned to make himself the second biggest male lead in the movie, all the major plot points were explained through exposition and not action, it was “too dark” for the Disney label, and, perhaps most importantly, it was excessively confusing with huge plot holes and nothing made sense. When Shyamy met with producers they told him their problems with it. Instead of attempting to explain it, come to some kind of agreement, or think of ways for improvement, Shyamy accused them of thinking he was insane. ”Two of the four I made for Disney are among the largest-grossing movies of all time. But now — now I’ve written Lady in the Water, and I’ve lost my mind. Suddenly, I can’t write anymore. I’ve lost my touch, gone crazy.” Nobody ever said he lost his mind, he immediately jumped to that conclusion. I don’t know about you, but I would think that only a crazy person would immediately go there. (*shifting eyes back and forth*) “WHAT?! CRAZY?! I’M NOT CRAZY?! WHO ARE YOU CALLING CRAZY?!” An argument ensued. Well, it was less an argument and more a Shyamy tirade. The Disney executives calmly asked him to help them “understand” his movie, while Shyamy told them that they were stifling his artistic vision. The same artistic vision that earned Lady in the Water a 24% score from critics, but I digress. Ultimately, Shyamy threatened to take the movie to another studio entirely. Next, in a huge display of magnanimousness, a Disney producer told him, ”Prove us wrong, Night. Just make the movie for us. We’ll give you $60 million and say, ‘Do what you want with it.’ We won’t touch it. We’ll see you at the premiere.” To which, of course ol’ Shyamy rejected the offer. Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense. Oh no, he’s not crazy, not crazy at all. Only a completely sane person would reject $60 million and total creative control ten minutes after being told his screenplay was a nonsensical piece of shit. Completely Sane Shyamy went to Warner Brothers who agreed to produce the movie (maybe they are really the crazy ones?), which turned out to be a box office failure. Naturally, Shyamy derided Disney’s lack of vision as the problem, even though they had nothing to do with the movie. Way to bite the hand that fed you, buddy. Consider that bridge burned.
Since his last three movies have failed miserably, Shyamy has had no choice than to blame himself, right? Wrong again. Blinded by his massive ego he has blamed everyone from “the critics” to U.S. moviegoers. After all, if the movies that he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in sucked ass, it must be someone else’s fault. It’s the same reason that Ed Wood’s B-movie Glen or Glenda failed at the box office. During a press conference for The Last Airbender, a reporter asked, “You had a very strong start of your career with The Sixth Sense… However, the audience has lost its faith in your work, with Lady in the Water and many of your more recent productions. Airbender feels like you want to captivate the audiences again by becoming more commercial. Am I right?” OK, so she’s basically saying, “Your career started out good, but your recent movies have been awful. Did you decide to make something with mass appeal so you could get people to like you again?” It doesn’t seem that far fetched considering The Last Airbender was a potential commercial juggernaut based on a highly popular Nickelodeon cartoon series. And how did Completely Sane Shyamy respond? He said, “Everything you said is the opposite of my instinct as an artist… I think if I thought like you, I’d kill myself… Your impression of my career is not my impression of my career. It’s something you read on Google or something… It’s a fascinating thing that you would even characterize my whole career the way you just did, dismissively like that. It’s sad for me to even hear you think like that… For me, after Sixth Sense, I made a better movie. I made Unbreakable. Which is, you know, for me, a better movie on all levels. And then, my favorite movie that I’ve made is The Village.“ So once again Shyamy became so defensive he began attacking the person talking to him. Dude, she just asked you a question, did you really have to tell her that she should kill herself? He’s acting like she just told him watching one of his films is more traumatic than getting butt-fucked by her own father and then snowballing her mom. Let’s face it, watching one of his movies is actually worse than that, but she didn’t say it, I did. Even more disturbing is that his favorite movie he made is The Village. Unbreakable wasn’t horrible, so if he prefers it to The Sixth Sense, then fine. But for the love of god, don’t tell me that the one with reviews such as this: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a megalomaniac writer-director to raise an idiot movie” is your all time favorite.
Clearly, she doesn’t get Shyamy’s self-proclaimed brilliance. Unfortunately, neither do any of the critics. Obviously, the critics are all idiots because they don’t get Shyamy’s multi-layered, masterful productions, either. Quoth the Shyamy, “I’ve always had a European sensibility to my movies, so the pacing is always a little bit off for [Americans]. It feels a little stilted, they need more electricity. I’m very used to getting on a plane from the U.S. having been savaged by them and going to – in this case – Japan next, and then they’re like, ‘genius!’.” If I was a Japanese person, I would be outraged by the accusation that I think Shyamy’s movies are “genius.” Oh right, of course, I’m American and too dense to understand the depth and metaphors and pretentious blah blah blah in his movies. If I were European I’m sure I would get it. After all, I’d have “European sensibilities.” Since all Europeans love to sit around watch shitty independent movies, wearing black and white striped shirts and berets, sipping coffee and eating baguettes and smoking like a chimney, and speaking in an outrageous accent. Sadly, since I’m American, all I’m able to do is clap while watching a shitload of explosions in the latest Michael Bay Summer Shit-Spectacular and yell, “HAW HAW HAW ALL THAT SHIT DONE EXPLODES REAL GOOD!” If Completely Sane Shyamy wants to be an auteur of intelligent independent films, just like all Europeans and Japanese people love, then he needs to start casting Michael Cera and using Indie Movie Font a lot more in his movies. Until he gets that message, I’ll never be able to take his “films” seriously. Case in point, when the trailer for the recent Shyamy-written movie Devil premiered in theaters, audiences booed when his name appeared on screen. I would post the video clip of this, but all copies seem to have been taken down by the movie studio. I don’t blame them. I would remove any link I had to Shyamy, too.
Given all his outward hatred toward critics and movie-goers, and his insistence that everyone else is wrong, there must be something else at play here. It can’t just be that he has a massive ego. No, I think it goes deeper than that. I think he probably has something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. After all he, “Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (raves to Disney executive about how two of his movies are among the highest grossers of all time), Rarely acknowledges mistakes and/or imperfections (ding ding ding! we have a winner!), Has a sense of entitlement (he should be able to do whatever he wants with his films), and Lacks empathy (tells reporter to kill herself).” Now I’m not diagnosing him because I’ve never met him. He may not have it, but he sure meets a lot of the criteria. I’d love to see what a psychiatrist would say given the chance to interview him. Shyamy seems like the poster boy for this disorder.
I’ve said a lot about Completely Sane Shyamy, but I haven’t touched on his film-making abilities yet. So what is it about him that earns him a spot amongst the Four Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse? As a director his technical skills aren’t that bad. He’s probably on par with Roland Emmerich’s skill level. While he’s able to do a few interesting things with the camera, he mostly sits it down on a tripod and lets his cast act in front of it. It’s not very interesting, but it gets the job done. He doesn’t go overboard with gimmicks like excessive shaky-cam madness or an abundance of fake-ass CGI. These are points on the positive side I can give Shyamy. Unfortunately, The Last Airbender was made in post-converted 3D, which is the latest Hollywood fad that I can’t stand. In fact, I can’t think of a single person who gets excited for movies in 3D. That shit should have died out in the 1950s. Well it did, but it got fucking revived much to my dismay. In fact, the 3D in The Last Airbender looked so bad it got the following glowing reviews:
- “Shown in murky, cut-rate 3-D.” – New York Post
- “The movie looks no worse if you take off your 3-D glasses. (It looks better only if you close your eyes.) The default color is murky purple.” – WallStreetJournal
- “As for the 3-D, I’m tempted to leave responsible critical language behind and say, quite simply, that it sucks — except that the 3-D visuals in this movie would have to exist before they could be called terrible.” – Entertainment Weekly
- “A ghoulish simulation of real 3D.” – BostonGlobe
Of course, given this praise, it only makes sense that Shyamy would be the keynote speaker at the 2010 3D Summit. After all, why get James Cameron (whose movie Avatar was actually filmed in 3D) when you can get ol’ Shyamy who just threw in 3D to his movie as an afterthought. It’s like instead of going to a world class steakhouse and ordering the prime rib you just go down to Jack in the Box and get a hamburger filled with E. coli. Why not? They’re both meat.
Shyamy also seems to have pioneered a new film-making technique I like to call “The Shyamalan Stare” (trademark BrikHaus 2010). With this technique, Shyamy has the character stand in front of the camera, and stare blankly at some unknown object. He draws this out for a refreshing 1-2 minutes before moving on the next scene or revealing what it was the characters were looking at. It really helps to build suspense. Or helps to cure insomnia. Or helps to incite rage amongst viewers. I forget which one. As far as I can tell, Shyamy has put The Shyamalan Stare in all of his films. It’s almost like a special little bonus for his die-hard fans. I’ve included a visual example below. I’ve placed the films in chronological order so you can see just how far Shyamy’s directing skills have progressed over the years.
Finally, the thing Shyamy is most famous for is his “twist” endings. We were all blown away by the ending of The Sixth Sense. Nobody saw it coming, and if someone tells you they did, they are lying. That movie was well crafted, and had you so roped into the dramatic elements you didn’t expect a twist of such huge proportions. On later rewatches, you can see that there are no holes in the narrative and they didn’t fuck up and have a mistake that showed Bruce Willis’ character interacting with any humans even on the smallest level. The twist was perfect, and seemed to be the best ending for the story. Well done, Shyamy.
His following films have almost always included twist endings. With each subsequent movie, the twist became more implausible and more laughable. In Unbreakable it turns out that Samuel L. Jackson’s character orchestrated all the disasters so he could become a villain and Willis’ character a superhero. Uh, OK, it worked I guess, but wasn’t all that shocking. In Signs it turns out that Mel Gibson’s character’s wife gave him the clue to defeat the alien menace while she was dying AND an additional twist was that water kills the aliens. Retarded. Why couldn’t Joaquin Phoenix’s character just bash in the alien’s head with his baseball bat? He had to douse it with water? As I already mentioned, why would aliens who are killed by water come to Earth of all places? Great planning there Shyamy. That twist only holds up if you have an IQ below 60. In The Village it turns out the whole thing is taking place in the modern day, although you are originally meant to believe it is occuring at the turn of the century. Yeah, great one Shyamy, real thought-provoking. And who could forget the horrifying twist in The Crappening where you discover that plants are emitting a human-killing toxin because we are poisoning the planet? Great stuff there, buddy. Keep it up. Wow. Just wow.
Unfortunately for Shyamy, he has done so many “twist” endings, that he has become known as the “twist ending guy.” People now expect his movies to have a “twist” ending. As a result, they lose their surprise. Anytime you start to watch one of his movies, you immediately start to guess at what the surprise is going to be. Ultimately, this detracts from any attempts to just enjoy the movie for what it is: a piece of shit. Shyamy’s scripts are horrendous. Of course he writes all of these turds he calls “films.” They are filled with terrible exposition, hammy dialogue, and awful plots. I know that Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg are capable of turning in good performances, I’ve seen it in other films. But in The Crappening they are so perplexed by the sheer shittiness of the script and the ineptitude of the directing, they can do nothing but look stunned throughout the movie. Overall, I think I like the concepts of Shyamy’s movies. He has some decent ideas. But he has no ability, actually no clue, of how to execute them. He should just act as one of those Hollywood idea men who shit out random thoughts and give them to real writers who can turn them into coherent stories.
Shyamy (now a studio executive): I’VE GOT IT! A MOVIE ABOUT A GUY WHO PLANS TO BLOW UP THE WHITE HOUSE, BUT THE TWIST IS THAT HE’S ACTUALLY DOING IT TO PREVENT A TERRORIST ATTACK!
Writer #1: Um, I’ll see what I can do with that.
Shyamy: CHECK THIS OUT! A COP WHO IS FIGHTING CRIME DISCOVERS A MASSIVE CONSPIRACY LEADING TO THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT, BUT THE TWIST IS THAT NONE OF IT IS REAL AND HE’S ACTUALLY IN A COMA THE ENTIRE TIME!
Writer #2: All right, I’ll give it my best shot.
Shyamy: A BUNCH OF OLD PEOPLE TAKING A DUMP INSIDE A VINTAGE CAR!
Writer #3: I don’t really think that can be a movie.
Shyamy: GODDAMN, I’M A FUCKIN’ GENIUS!
If only the guy could tone down the twist endings and the egomania, he might be able to salvage his career. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen. So all we’re left with is one good Shyamy movie, and a bunch of other putrid pieces of shit. For the horrible movies he’s made so far, and the atrocities he will undoubtedly make in the future, M. Night Shyamalan has earned himself a spot as one of the Four Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse.
This concludes Awesomely Shitty’s four-part series exposing the horrors of some of the worst film-makers in Hollywood. I hope you can use these articles as a lesson, a lesson of which movie directors to avoid like the plague. If you go on to watch any of the movies I mentioned, don’t say I didn’t warn you.