Once upon a time, there was a promising young filmmaker named M. Night Shyamalan. With his 1999 hit The Sixth Sense, which starred Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, he exploded onto the scene. Fans loved his gentle, creepy touch when it came to telling the ghost story. The industry loved that he turned a $40 million film into a $672 million-grossing stunner. Then he followed up his monster hit with Unbreakable, which also starred Bruce Willis. It was another mysterious film, with an intriguing premise, and a plot twist. But this time, the results weren’t quite as exciting. The film cost more to make than Sixth Sense did ($75 million), and banked less than half what that film did ($248 million).
But still, there was intrigue about what Shyamalan could bring to the table. The next 10 or so years were filled with ups and downs, in terms of the director’s creative output. While films like Signs and The Village had stellar opening weekends that showed that fans were interested in moves that had his name over the title..
Other films crashed and burned, based on the expectations that came with his name, and the questionable quality of what he was trying to create.
Many considered the “final nail in the coffin” to be 2013’s After Earth. It starred megastar Will Smith and his son Jayden- a pairing that had worked out so nicely for The Pursuit of Happyness– and it had a “big” sci-fi premise. It was also the biggest budget the director had ever been handed ($130 million). But then the film came out, was thrashed by critics and fans alike, and only mustered $60 million at the domestic box office (with international receipts bringing its total up to only $243 million total).
Was M. Night Shyamalan’s brand dead?
The filmmaker shifted gears. Rather than trying to get bigger and bigger, he went back to his roots. This year, he released The Visit. It was a small horror flick that cost only $5 million to make, and it had a remarkable outcome: It received generally positive reviews and pulled in a hefty $89 million.
Based on the success of The Visit, and the small screen hit he just produced for Fox (Wayward Pines), Shyamalan has lined up his next project. Still hanging out back in his wheelhouse, it’s a supernatural suspense thriller. It’s called Split, and it’s going to star Professor X himself, James McAvoy. The Blumhouse production is set to scare up audiences on January 27, 2017.
It looks like Shyamalan may be back on track, and all it took was remembering what brought him to the party in the first place.