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WillisI think this all started with Bruce Willis. At least he's our first data point; who knows when it really started. It could have been cooked up over a jazz cigarette at New York University some night at 3am. Anyway, Bruce Willis was the first victim to the evil plot. 

Here's how it goes: take a Name Brand Star, someone like Willis. You give him a interesting little movie with a twist ending and hard-to-read script and show him that it can be a commercial and critical success. I give you The Sixth Sense, for example. Then, just when you've got Willis buying in, WHAM! You bust him up with an Unbreakable, just to mess him up. He'll be so spun around backwards he'll end up getting a divorce and making a shitty movie with Billy Bob Thorton. It took him six years (six years) to climb out of that hole. He bounced back faster after Hudson Hawk

This is a prime example of  M. Night Shyamalan's game.

Sometimes he'll go for the quick score, like he did with Sam Jackson. Poor old Sam will sign on to any picture. I heard you can get him attached to a cocktail napkin if you write enough zeros on it. Sam didn't know to pass on Unbreakable. Hell, he probably thought it was an okay movie.

But most of the time, M. Night goes for the compound kill. He sets you up with a halfway decent movie and then he suckers you into doing the worst thing anyone has ever seen. Take a look at Signs. No really, look! It's not that bad. It has at least one of each: tension, aliens, a religious sub-plot, dog-killing kids, a Culkin, baby monitors — this movie has it all. 

In this film, M. Night worked with Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, and the unforgettable Cherry Jones (don't worry, even she doesn't know who she is). Mel Gibson was smart. He said, "Thank you Mr. Shamalam [sic - everyone calls him that], I'll just do this one half-way decent film and be done with you."

Joaquin and Cherry were not so smart. They decided to double-down and sign up for another tour in The Village. Holy shit, what a terrible movie. What's even better than that ruse? M. Night also convinced William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Adrien Brody to be in this garbage film. That's eight nominations and two oscars in one place. For The Village. Stunning? That's like a triple word score of screwing people over. Even given all that, my favorite part of The Village is that M. Night then convinced Bryce Dallas Howard to be in Lady in the Water, which turned out even worse.Wahlberg

To prove the point, I submit The Happening. This enormous poop-biscuit starred newcomers to the Night fold: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and that guy who looks like an ugly Freddy Rodríguez. To increase the difficulty level of screwing over the actors, M. Night told the whole cast that they had to either yell or whine all their lines and look perpetually confused. It worked — worst film ever. 

Actually, that's not 100% correct. Not everyone in that film was new to working with M. Night. There was that hotdog farmer guy: Frank Collison.frank_collisonInterestingly, if you type his name into IMDB, you'll get a phone call from Frank within 90 seconds, asking,

  1. Do you have any work for him, and, 
  2. Do you have any idea who he is (because even he can't remember).

I have this fantasy that Mr. Shyamalan sets up these elaborate practical jokes to trick decent actors into starring in horrible films just so he can wait outside at the premiere. When they step out into the night, heads low with shame, he pops up and says, "You've been Shyamalan'd!"