M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene in a big way with his 1999 supernatural horror film, The Sixth Sense. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture, and it was a HUGE box office hit, grossing $293 million domestically and $672.8 million worldwide. One would think if Shyamalan had a personal preference amongst his filmography, this one would come out on top but he wouldn’t be M. Night without a Shyamalan twist and it turns out it’s one of his more critically maligned efforts that he prefers over his breakthrough hit.
“GQ Magazine,” asked the director to name “his favorites of his oeuvre” and Shyamalan answered by saying, “The ones I have the most affinity for are the ones that have maintained that quirky nature. Unbreakable, and Lasy in the Water, and The Visit, and this movie [Old]…the ones that are poky.” While I’m not surprised he would name Unbreakable since some consider it to be even better than The Sixth Sense, I’m a little shocked that LADY IN THE WATER made his cut. Hell, I can even accept The Visit since it was a bit of a comeback for him and was surprisingly good. I think this might come down to Lady in the Water being a personal creative favorite of his despite it continuing this downward trend with mainstream audiences with some of his releases.
So why Lady in the Water over The Sixth Sense? Shyamalan explains that the quirkiness of Lady in the Water appeals to him more than the more composed polish of The Sixth Sense. “GQ Magazine” agreed with Shyamalan on some level by saying “there’s a decorum, a dignity to that, that makes it almost too neat” and Shyamalan adds to that by calling it a “suit and tie quality.” “GQ Magazine” concludes by saying “a film like Lady in the Water does convey the weirdness, the poky appeal of Shyamalan himself.”
Poky or not, Lady in the Water was not well-received when it was released back in 2006. The film is 25% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes and, up until Old, it was the lowest opening weekend of Shyamalan’s career at $18.2 million. The film collapsed from there, grossing $42.2 million domestically and $72.7 million worldwide on a $70 million budget. In the grand scheme of things from most moviegoers it may be better than The Happening or The Last Airbender but that is what we call faint praise.
In Lady in the Water, a superintendent of a Philadelphia apartment complex discovers a young woman in the swimming pool. Gradually, he and his neighbors learn that she is a water nymph (or Narf) whose life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature called a Scrunt that tries to keep her from returning to her watery “blue world.” The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, and Freddy Rodriguez.
Do YOU think Lady in the Water is better than The Sixth Sense?