The Fake Documentary That Backfired On M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village

After closely analyzing footage of Shyamalan’s childhood short films and piecing occult clues together, the documentarians discover the “buried secret” that the title alludes to. It turns out that, as a young boy, Shyamalan drowned in a lake and temporarily died. Before paramedics arrived at the scene to revive him, however, the filmmaker had communicated with spirits from beyond the grave, inspiring “The Sixth Sense” and lending him the supernatural qualities that the documentary had previously hinted at. It’s at this point where Shyamalan becomes upset and actively tries to stop the documentary’s release, creating a story that would play out leading up to the broadcast.

In reality, Shyamalan had worked with the SYFY (then Sci-Fi) Channel to keep the entire project a secret. The problems arrived when network president Bonnie Hammer admitted to the hoax before the documentary even aired, leading to disappointing viewership numbers. “The Village” went on to become Shyamalan’s last true hit before the critical and financial bomb that was “Lady in the Water,” which most mark as the beginning of the end. Still, “Buried Secret” painted Shyamalan as a larger-than-life myth, an element that would return with Shyamalan’s critically-panned portrayal of the god-author Vick Ran in “Lady in the Water.” It was also a prime example of Shyamlan’s bizarre, perhaps hokier, ideas surfacing with little to no restraint. “Buried Secret” represents the filmmaker’s decision to build hype through his own name and image, which made sense back when his name carried box office weight but which could and did easily backfire upon the exposing of his faux exposé.

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