It’s not exactly easy to become an infamously “bad” director. Most of the time, to be known as a maker of convoluted catastrophes or droning bores, you have to be noticeably talented in some way and — for lack of a better word — misuse that unique ability to make compromised products. For all his one-dimensional, hugely false depictions of war and the military, Michael Bay possesses tremendous skill to orchestrate product-placement free-for-alls masquerading as explosive, action-driven bonanzas like the Transformers films. He may have less than zero scruples when it comes to the material but the filmmaker has an eye for building and, to an extent, cutting towering set-pieces that would be wrong to dismiss as simple or easy.
M. Night Shyamalan is a different breed from Bay altogether, but he suffers from the same stigma. In 1999, Shyamalan directed The Sixth Sense, a whip-smart, stylish supernatural thriller that caught on at the box office like wildfire; he followed that film up with Unbreakable, a bold, before-its-time examination of the mythology of heroes and villains told through a patient, innovative origins story. The passable Signs followed, but things didn’t start getting groan-worthy until The Village and Lady in the Water, which both suffered from being overwrought, to say the least.
What has followed has been a string of increasingly nonsensical science fiction jaunts, but his abilities as a filmmaker are still quite apparent. This goes double for Wayward Pines, an interesting but extremely bloated and overthought mini-series that Shyamalan produced and partially directed, and I thought I’d take this chance to go through a few of Shyamalan’s more distinct missteps as a filmmaker, one’s that have especially diluted and hampered his distinct imagery and visual rhythms. And to be fair, I will be posting a similar list of his greatest moments as a director on Wednesday as part of the wind up to the premiere of Wayward Pines.