Originally published in Script Magazine Online in 2005 in a slightly shorter form here.
Below is the full article…
M. Night Shyamalan is the modern master of the high-concept thriller. He is also a mad scientist. A tinkerer.
With each new film, he’s gone back into his lab and concocted some new experiment in suspense storytelling. This is a screenwriter who has mastered traditional narrative and gotten bored with it, so he’s decided to consistently take chances with the form. From his sub-basement sanctum sanctorum, amidst the smoking beakers and jarred brains and that lightning-rod thingee, adjacent to the plasma screen playing non-stop Hitchcock films, he straps standard three-act structure down onto a slab of unforgiving granite and goes to work. With The Village he shocks his most bold experiment into life.
Shyamalan has always enjoyed playing the puppetmaster of our emotions. Don’t kid yourself — he may be fascinated with the retooling of narrative structure, but ultimately, he’s experimenting on us, the audience. Like Hitchcock before him, Shyamalan is the Great Manipulator. Manipulation is not a bad word to M. Night; rather, it’s his raison d’etre. He loves it, gets off on playing us like a marionette. And considering his four straight commercial successes (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village), it’s safe to say we keep coming back for more.
We want him in that lab. We need him in that lab.