These are the five keys to decoding mystery man M. Night Shyamalan

These are the five keys to decoding mystery man M. Night Shyamalan

The director of Unbreakable, Split and now Glass has built a legacy unlike any other, with ambitious premises and unbelievable twists.


James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson


M. Night Shyamalan

Release date

January 18, 2019

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M. Night Shyamalan became an instant sensation in 1999 with his supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense. Nominated for six Academy Awards, the horror film cemented his status as one of the most exciting filmmakers of this generation, and his output in the genre continues to shock audiences.

With his latest film, Glass, Shyamalan has created a trilogy that nobody saw coming. The series began with Unbreakable, which stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a seemingly ordinary man who discovers he has superhuman abilities. He meets Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who, unlike the invincible Dunn, is more “breakable” than most.

Split, the second film, introduces us to Kevin Wendell, a man with 24 personalities, played by James McAvoy. These two stand-alone stories come together in Glass, which promises as many twists and turns as a classic Shyamalan hit.

Here, we break down the essentials to a classic M. Night Shyamalan film.

The famous twist endings

When Split came out back in January 2017, nobody knew the film would be linked to his 2000 release, Unbreakable, making this quite possibly the biggest twist from Shyamalan yet. And he completely changed the game in The Sixth Sense with what is now considered one of the most shocking endings in film history. Ever since, he’s been delivering on this unofficial promise, catching us off guard in films like Signs, The Village, The Visit and The Happening.

The supernatural

Thematically, M. Night Shyamalan loves to tell stories of the supernatural, and he often places ordinary people in extraordinary events. He does this in Signs, in which an ordinary family faces a potential alien invasion; The Happening, as a society is plagued by a disease that provokes suicide; and in The Sixth Sense, in which a young boy sees dead people. Even Split, which on the surface looks like a psychological thriller about a man with multiple personality disorder, leads to something supernatural when it’s revealed that Kevin transforms into a superhuman called the “Beast.”

The cameos

Like many legendary directors (think Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese), M. Night Shyamalan has made an appearance in every one of his own movies. It’s a trademark element of his work, and as he’s the writer, producer and director on all of his films, it makes sense that he’d also want to appear on-screen as the cherry on top. So be sure to keep your eye out for him when you see Glass.

The moody aesthetic

It’s not a Shyamalan film if it isn’t moody, creepy and downright dark. The director uses visual themes that give his filmography a unified look and feel. He frequently relies on colours to tell a story, and on patterns, like the stairway in The Sixth Sense, the rows of corn in Signs and the chalk in Unbreakable. He uses water as a signifier of death (in The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable and The Village) and broken glass to foreshadow a horrific event — you can anticipate plenty of that in Glass.

The dark humour

The best horror movies are also a little self-aware, and even though Shyamalan’s films are scary, there’s some humour in there, too. The Visit is the perfect example of this: Equal parts hilarious and terrifying, it follows two young kids who become terrorized by their grandparents during a long overdue visit. With Glass, we expect some signature dark humour to ease the scariness of James McAvoy’s “Beast,” though the laughs may just be nervous ones.

Glass is a movie for thrill-seekers.

From the master of the horror-thriller genre, this exciting addition to the series promises to be a wild ride. Knowing that Shyamalan is famous for his unexpected twists and turns, you’ll want to see Glass in theatres before all of the surprises are revealed! In the same way that Split caused a cultural conversation about Shyamalan’s return to form, Glass is going to be the next big film everyone will be talking about.

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