The ingredients of a Shyamalan movie … summed up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points
Writing this review made me reflect on M. Knight Shyamalan, who I’m a big fan of, and the ebb and flow of his career. Is he an “auteur”? And what does that word mean other than that the user is a film student? There certainly is a distinctive Shyamalan style which flows through and connects all his work: Sixth Sense, The Village, Stuart Little. But what are the ingredients of a Shyamalan movie? Here I’ve summed it up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points.
Religious / Spiritual motif or thread (The Devil, Signs)
Protagonist who is mentally damaged from a previous tragedy, usually the death of a loved one (Signs, Sixth Sense)
A character who explains stuff / walking expositor, often to do with the religious motif or mythology underpinning the film (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender, The Visit, The Devil)
Some wooden or flabby dialogue (see previous bullet point)
Self-indulgent Hitchcockesque cameo from the man, the legend himself: Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, Old)
Super double twist ending, with cheese (Sixth Sense, The Village)
Big Concept (the wind, err, kills? The Happening; people age quickly: Old; you cannot be injured: Unbreakable)
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Unbreakable, Glass)
Colour symbolism, especially red (The Village, Stuart Little (no, but seriously though))
Medical disorder or sickness (blindness in The Village, various in the Unbreakable trilogy)
Sci-fi or fantasy setting or element to a horror-thriller movie (Signs, The Happening)
Of course, there are visual touches, too. These include seeing stuff in a reflection and shots that linger. But this post is about his writing. That all being said, can you come up with the next Shyamalan flick, paint-by-numbers style?
Las Elegidas (‘The Chosen Ones’) follows a fourteen year old who gets kidnapped into sexual slavery by her boyfriend who is himself under the duress of his people-trafficking older brother and father. The boyfriend begs his father but is presented with a stark choice: his girlfriend will be released if he finds another girl to fill her space. So we spend half the film with him seducing another girl, ultimately successfully. His girlfriend is changed forever, however, and is “released” but only to live with the family and under their supervision at all times.
The film was moving. The sex scenes were disturbingly shot, but featured no actual sex. But this made it all the more disturbing as the sex is in our minds.
However, the film ends rather abruptly. Just as a plotline develops about one of the patrons of the brothel being an undercover would-be liberator of the girls, credits roll.
totally falls apart, our main players [are] totally incapable
A policeman carries around the pain of the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of her best friend from years before when they were on a teenage night out together. But when she finally decides to reopen the case and investigate it herself, she soon finds herself in danger.
Perdida is a mystery crime thriller with some interesting twists and turns, although you can see one of the main twists coming a mile away. Sadly, the just-about-passable acting totally falls apart, our main players totally incapable of even trying to react normally at several crucial moments; indeed, there is no reaction at all at emotional pay-offs. This weird disjunction between what is happening and the performance of the actors is vaguely confusing and certainly ruins the film’s high points.