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Ranking M. Night Shyamalan’s Horror Films: Worst to First

Glass Unbreakable 2

The world is talking about M. Night Shyamalan again.

After a string of ill-received films, it looked as though the prospect that gave the world The Sixth Sense may have been little more than a flash in the pan. Then came a few solid efforts, and out of nowhere came Split, a flick that has managed to completely change Shyamalan’s position in the industry.

M. Night Shyamalan is back on top.

For the record, I’ve always been onboard. Unlike most, I think the only film he’s released that I truly did not enjoy was After Earth. And well, that was… After Earth.

Soon Shyamalan will deliver Glass, a film that will bring Unbreakable and Split together as David Dunn and Casey Cooke will be forced to protect the good of mankind against Mr. Glass and The Beast. Or so that’s how I envision this next film playing out. That, with a well-written story thrown in the mix sounds like a cinematic dream come true.

We’ll find out how durable Glass is in 2018. For now, we thought it would be fun to take a look at Shyamalan’s career (within, or directly tied to the genre) and rank the man’s films. So, from worst to first here we go!

After Earth

I don’t know that After Earth really belongs on this list, as it quite clearly isn’t a horror film. It does however have heavy sci-fi elements, which most of Shyamalan’s films do. It’s not as dark as say, Split or The Sixth Sense, but it has a few grim sequences. The problem is, the story isn’t just terrible, it’s almost coma-inducing. This movie is so wretched they kept Shyamalan’s name off of virtually all promotional goodies in the build-up to release. And yes, before you utter the words out loud, After Earth is even worse than The Happening.

The Happening

Shyamalan actually had a really cool idea for this film, and he put it to use. The problem is, the world (sans those who watched and read interviews in which Shyamalan spoke on it) didn’t get it. See, Shyamalan’s idea was to turn The Happening into a nod to vintage films. Intentionally wooden acting, innocence in vernacular, character interaction over visceral action. Imagine the movie is black and white, released 50 years ago, and you probably feel a lot different than you do today. The thing is, as noble as the idea was, it simply did not resonate with today’s moviegoers. I understand that, though I probably enjoy this one a little more than most others.

Lady in the Water

Shyamalan’s big fairy tale gives us some amazing visuals, colorful personalities and a villain with a world of potential. However, once again, I don’t think audiences were prepared to watch a very well disguised fairytale. I think fans wanted terrifying, as opposed to fairytale. Fans wanted a twist of epic proportions. While Lady in the Water gave us a lot of good things, it didn’t give us anything truly terrifying and it didn’t give us quite the twist we’d hoped for.

The Village

Was the finale of The Village predictable? Absolutely. This is probably Shyamalan’s most telegraphed story. But you know what? The entire flick is entertaining, and once again Shyamalan introduces a few extremely memorable characters. The ensemble is loaded top to bottom and everyone onboard performs, and then some. It really is a relatively witty story – up to a point – and it boggles the mind that the primary complaint to come from viewers was that “the monster wasn’t even really a monster!” Cry me a river. If you’d been paying attention to the film’s details you probably would’ve had that figured out before the depths of the final act approached.

The Visit

The Visit is a very unorthodox film for M. Night Shyamalan. It basically abandons the majority of his own trademarks. He shoots the flick as a found footage, or POV film, he ditches the anticipated cameo and he doesn’t invest in an enormous twist. Instead, he delivers a straight-forward story about a couple of kids who find themselves being terrorized by an elderly couple that are losing the few fibers of sanity they still possess at a – quite frankly – depressing rate. The result is a frequently uncomfortable riddle that – for two young children – is practically unsolvable due to the nature of the elderly pair’s declining mental stability.

The Sixth Sense

The film that typically tops most “Best Shyamalan Movies” lists doesn’t even crack top three here, but there’s no shame in that. This is an excellent film, as are the three I’ve still yet to mention. By now everyone knows the twist of The Sixth Sense. We all know why cute (What the hell happened, Haley? Too much Twinkie love? Okay… I’m with you all the way, I admit it.) little Haley Joel Osment could see dead people. When the film was brand new, on the other hand, nobody saw that twist coming, even though we had about 50 clues thrown in our faces throughout the picture’s 107-minute run time. That had a big effect on audiences, and word of mouth spread, and the hordes poured in. The film deserved that love, and I’m glad Shyamalan’s first trek into macabre cinema paid off the way it did.

Unbreakable

Just a great flick with genuinely polarizing personalities all over the place, it doesn’t get too much better than Unbreakable. As a comic book fan, it was ridiculously cool to see a superhero flick with no tights. That was great. The performance turned in by Bruce Willis seemed to transcend Bruce Willis himself. It was special. And Samuel L. Jackson… good lord that man can play any role on any day and never fail to hit a homerun. The pacing is perfect, the cinematography is top notch, and we get one of the most important, magnetic and mysterious supporting characters in Audrey, played by the still sexy Golden Globe winner, Robin Wright. There’s nothing not to love about Unbreakable.

Split

Split is about as close as it gets to a perfect picture. Given the fact that the movie is still relatively new, and has a large market it has yet to be made available to, I’ll save the spoilers. But, I will say that James McAvoy slays in… these roles. He’s great and chameleon-like. And when the time comes, he’s extremely frightening. Split is another well-designed film that came together in perfect fashion thanks to a lot of things really working on the back-end of this production. A hundred different hiccups could have damaged Split, but none did. That says quite a bit about M. Night Shyamalan.

Signs

The Shyamalan film that demands more replay than any other Shyamalan film out there, the crafty invasion tale, Signs. This is perfect science fiction. Even better, it’s perfect science fiction with some very frightening moments. It’s a sublime hybrid film if ever there was one. Joaquin Phoenix was still just a quirky and lovable top notch talent. We still looked at Mel Gibson as a Super-Father type. Culkin and Breslin were both still adorable knee-highs. There are a ton of iconic moments in the film, and there are moments that will leave your breath trapped in your throat. It’s got a little bit of everything going for it, and outside of a somewhat sketchy answer to the conflict, everything was right as rain with Signs.

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About The Overseer (2048 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

1 Comment on Ranking M. Night Shyamalan’s Horror Films: Worst to First

  1. Great article, great list…and I’m totally good with you never mentioning that ‘one movie which shall not be named’…because, after all, that wasn’t in the horror genre either and therefore doesn’t count:)

    Like

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