M. Night Shyamalan has been one of the most interesting figures in contemporary Hollywood. His spectacular rise, his infamous fall and his exciting resurrection may not share the same intensity as his finest works, but they make up for a brilliant case study. He isn’t a great auteur, far from being one, but like most of them he possesses a distinct knack for style. The style comes with substance too, and though he does get carried away with scripts which can only be completely comprehended by him and sometimes takes years for hardcore fans to analyse, these topsy-turvy ambiguous narratives are bound to keep you on the edge of the seat.
Out of the catchy camerawork, ethereal soundtracks and startling scenes in his movies, the one thing that has gifted him both acclaim and lemons, is his endings. No matter how strange the movie is, we know the ending solves it, even though at times it is anti-climatic. Having a wicked ending in every feature isn’t a bad thing, if it is executed properly. Alfred Hitchcock says “When you finish the script, the film is perfect. But in shooting it you lose perhaps 40 percent of your original conception “. Taking this into perspective, let’s look at the Top 5 Endings in M.Night Shyamalan Movies. And yeah, SPOILER ALERT!!
5. The Visit
‘The Visit’ can be termed the beginning of a new era for M.Night, after a string of disasters. Though The Visit doesn’t come close to his earlier ventures, it does radiate something positive : his departure from the supernatural when necessary. It’s a found footage film that follows two teens who visit their grandparents, only to find out that they are two mentally challenged imposters who have murdered the real ones. We’ve seen him experiment with horror tropes in earlier movies, but this is his rawest and makes a big impact with its shocking imagery and setting.
Imagine having 24 different personalities. 1 for each hour, and believe me Mondays wouldn’t be the same! On a serious note, I’ll be considering both the endings of Split, the actual as well as the pre credits one. After a rather disappointing climax, the ending is swarmed by a bittersweet feeling. It carries on the tone of Kevin Crumb’s unfortunate transformation, while hinting at Casey Cook’s stance in the upcoming projects. It shows how two victims of childhood trauma, no matter how different they may appear to be still harbour the pain. We also see the moment we yearned for, KC’s 3 primary personas sharing the same frame, with some brilliant utilisation of the reverse shot technique. The scene ends, and then M.Night sent me and thousands of other movie-goers into a meltdown by adding the ‘Unbreakable’ theme. This was followed by the ending Unbreakable fans were waiting for 17 years, and their guesses were given the green signal by David Dunn’s cameo and his mention of Mr Glass.
‘Signs’ was a step down for M.Night following the quality of ‘Unbreakable’. He has always been intrigued by the abnormal (supernatural or scientific). So it wasn’t surprising when he chose to tackle an alien invasion plot. There is nothing twisted about it, unlike Unbreakable or ‘The Sixth Sense’ and it’s accessibility may have been a result of the former’s poor performance. The ending was bashed by critics and fans for the ex machina revelation, but seriously isn’t as bad as others like ‘War of the World’s (which was plain awful). Like the crop circles in the movie, M.Night carefully creates the buildup to the climax and it’s puzzling symbolism is sometimes misleading, and eventually its motif.
2. The Sixth Sense
‘The Sixth Sense’ is without any doubt, M.Night’s most popular movie. The ending alone turned him into a star overnight, and though many would agree this stardom was short-lived, the movie brought back life to the declining psychological thriller genre. Assuming most of us are wary about the reveal, I’d like to discuss it freely. You’ll find a huge bunch of smartasses claiming to have guessed it halfway through, the buildup to is so intelligently written, it never lets you settle on that guess. Another appreciable aspect is, it does not cheat its premise. The kid sees dead people, and M.Night doesn’t shower psychological theories to prove him wrong, he does full justice to the supernatural fantasy, no matter how strange it is.
Contrary to the publicly accepted belief, ‘Unbreakable’ is and will always remain M.Night Shyamalan’s finest work. Released in 2000, it is a movie that was way ahead of its time and transcended the superhero genre onto a plane that it always ends up repelling, the plane of realism. While being the most humanely constructed origin story, it also features an iconic beginning to something that was shelved because of the negative response. The beginning of Shyamalan’s Universe, whose existence was guaranteed by the release of ‘Split’ last year. That beginning or the end of Unbreakable is his strongest ending. Though it may not be as shocking as The Sixth Sense’s plot twist, cinematically it is perfect.
With the lovely soundtrack by James Newton Howard in the background complimenting Samuel L Jackson’s strongest moments on screen, it is nothing short of heartbreaking. We had been rooting for both the stars, and were intrigued by Price’s mysterious charm. But this was soon turned into horror as we realise the extent of his obsession, and though many were dejected over this reveal, people soon started looking at the possibilities this scenario presented, which hopefully may be covered in Unbreakable 2!