We've all experienced that moment of disenchantment at very different times. Initially impressed and excited by M Night Shyamalan's storytelling abilities with films like The Sixth Sense and (my personal favourite) Unbreakable, we have all, at varied points, experienced the glass ceiling shatter around our expectations.
For some of us it came with Signs -- a story of loss of love, loss of faith and an easily deflected alien invasion.
Some threw their hands up with The Village, a period mystery that plodded along too slowly to interest.
Some, justifiably enough, couldn't take Lady In The Water, an extremely self-indulgent adaptation of a children's story he had himself written. And then, to convert even the most diehard Night-fan, came The Happening, an alarmingly half-baked film so soaked in silliness it made his recent efforts look better.
Most of us, me included, didn't even dare watch The Last Airbender. (We seem to have made the right choice; critics who braved it gave it a 6 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
So what went wrong with a storyteller with such promise, the astronomically-paid screenwriter touted, at one point, as successor to Steven Spielberg [ Images ]?
It's hard to say, of course, and we can but speculate. Perhaps Night relied far too heavily on the same structure -- a slow-burn buildup followed by a tremendously dramatic twist ending -- to free himself up as a storyteller. Perhaps the gimmick overpowered the form. Perhaps his overambitious attempts to emulate suspense supremo Alfred Hitchcock went beyond cameo roles and robbed him of his initial, promising originality. Perhaps his defiant disregard of logic -- his scripts fall apart as soon as examined -- could only ever go so far.
Perhaps, on the other hand, it was the hoax.
In 2004, the Sci-Fi Channel documentary, The Buried Secret Of M Night Shyamalan, showed how Night, after being legally dead for half an hour following a traumatic childhood accident, could communicate with spirits, speak to dead people. After garnering much press, the documentary was revealed as a sham, concocted by Shyamalan and the channel as a marketing ploy for The Village. It might have been a trick that went wrong, but the sloppy sleight of hand ensured Shyamalan lost significant credibility.
Now, Shyamalan's back. And it looks like he's going back to the basics.
Devil, out in India [ Images ] this week and the first part of Shyamalan's Night Chronicles Trilogy, is a film he has conceived and produced. But the directing reins have been handed over to John Eric Dowdle.
The film starts with a suicide, and goes claustrophobic to the extreme, most of its 80-minute running time revolving around five strangers -- with murky pasts -- stuck in an elevator, and dying in mysterious ways.
Potentially, this is the stuff of extreme, B-movie schlock. Lots of darkness, random deaths, a convoluted mess of backstories culminating in rapid, brutal deaths with a plot too pacy to even need to make sense. None of that, however, is a bad thing. If Shyamalan can even churn out a solid, riveting B-movie, it would be a step in the right direction. A low-budget production at $10 million, the film is surely not something that intends to sweep us off our feet with its scale and setting.
So bring it on, this Devil. Night has called this story a tribute to Agatha Christie; we're assuming the twist lies deeper than the butler not doing it.