In advance of M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming psychological thriller Split, which stars James McAvoy as an kidnapper with 23 different personalities - which is bound to end up being somehow even less straightforward than it sounds - it seems like a natural time to reflect on the filmmaker's notable history of plot twists.
Plot twists, when carefully executed, have the ability to leave audiences with their jaws on the floor and send them away floored and eager to tell spoil the film for all of their friends. When executed haphazardly, however, it reeks of desperation and suggests a filmmaker has run out of original ideas.
M. Night Shyamalan has fallen on both sides of that coin throughout his career, and perhaps no other director's reputation has ever been more reliant on his ability (or lack thereof) to psyche out audiences in the last ten minutes of a movie. But that's bound to happen when almost every single movie you've ever been involved in making features a significant plot twist.
Obviously, spoilers ahead...
7. The Happening
The Plot: Mass suicides have become an epidemic across the northeastern United States, and the husband and wife team of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are having none of it. They flee from the presumed bio-terrorist attack as people all around them continue to kill themselves once they're affected by an airborne neurotoxin.
The Twist: The mysterious force causing people to commit suicide for no apparent reason is... plants. Seriously. The plants did it. They're emitting the neurotoxin because they don't like the way humans are treating the planet.
So, essentially, Shyamalan decided to ruin a perfectly good mystery thriller by turning his feature film into a 90-minute PSA about the dangers of pollution. And hey, it's a great message and all, but Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth had already tackled this pretty thoroughly just a couple of years earlier. And he did it without bothering Mark Wahlberg.
Shyamalan had already proven his deep fascination with Mother Nature several times over, but The Happening pushed that fascination into a full-blown mania. Unfortunately, his well-meaning "statement" turned into a big ol' punchline.