Twisty Rant

Can M. Night Shyamalan’s New Movie Please Not Have A Twist?

Trap already has an audacious premise. Let’s hope that’s enough.

Warner Bros.

M. Night Shyamalan certainly didn’t invent the reality-altering twist ending, but, with classics like The Sixth Sense and Signs, he did, arguably, perfect it. Or, perhaps, if looked at another way, Shyamalan figured out a way to make his mind-bending twist endings oh-so-twisty, that just thinking about the endings of his movies has managed to ruin watching the movies themselves. In the old days, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone operated with similar punchy twists, though, at 30 minutes apiece, an episode of that series took up far less of your life than a Shyamalan movie.

With a just-released trailer for Shyamalan’s next thriller, Trap, the internet is already abuzz with hypothetical twist talk. Could this movie really be set in the Unbreakable universe? (Why?) Is the twist that Riley (Ariel Donoghue) really a vampire? (What?) And just what will that patented Shyamalan-twisted entail? (Who knows!) Short of an actual plot leak which just spoils the ending, learning the twist to Trap will just have to wait until the movie drops on August 9. But, what’s interesting is that with the particular premise of Trap, it feels like a Shyamalan movie that doesn’t need to hide anything more than just revealing what happens next. Could this be the first big Shyamalan movie that drops the biggest twist of all — that there’s not actually a twist?

Trap stars Josh Hartnett as a serial killer named Cooper, but better known to the cops as “the Butcher.” He’s taken his tween daughter Riley to a concert to see a pop star named Lady Raven (Saleka Shyamalan). Turns out the entire concert is a “trap” to catch the Butcher, hence the name of the movie. Harnett is appropriately creepy, but he’s also, crucially, compartmentalized. As far as we know in the trailer, Riley has no idea her dad’s a serial killer, so the tension of the movie is clear: Will the Butcher escape the trap?

The trailer already gives us a great twist, one that, arguably, doesn’t need to be expanded upon much to make a thrilling, and original film. We’re sympathetic to Hartnett’s character, but only because we don’t want his night ruined with his daughter. Then again, any normal person is also rooting for him to be caught by the cops, assuming, of course, everything is as it seems. If the movie plays by the rules the trailer is laying down, there’s already a pretty interesting movie here, one in which a hypothetical twist could be connected to what the audience is supposed to feel. Generally, we’re rooting for traps against bad guys to succeed but, in this trailer, there’s already a smart level of subversion. What if we’re rooting for the bad guy to escape?

Although it seems very unlikely, it would be refreshing if the basic audaciousness of the premise of Trap was the only so-called “twist.” And that’s because, once your mind starts playing the game of guessing the twist in Trap, you’ll likely start hating the hypothetical movie you’re inventing. For example, if the twist is that the Butcher’s daughter is the real killer, and he’s protecting her, well that’s just gross and screwed up for the sake of it. Or, what if the cops are really trying to trap him because they need him to catch an even bigger killer? Or, what if all the people the Butcher has killed are actually evil and deserved it or something?

Didn’t we get this twist pretty early?

Touchstone Pictures

You can already see where all of this is going. Because Shyamalan’s reputation demands a certain kind of inversion of our assumptions (i.e. Bruce Willis is really a ghost!) it already feels impossible to take Trap at its word. The premise is a provocative one, but because this is Shyamalan, we kind of already don’t trust it. This psychologically loaded set-up should be enough to carry an entire movie, but it almost certainly won’t be enough for what the movie eventually becomes.

In fairness, some Shyamalan twists are different than others. In his underrated film The Village (2004), the audience can kind of tell that this antiquated town is clearly embedded in a future or contemporary time period. The finale of the movie reveals the boundaries of the titular village, it’s not such much a denouement, but a moment of clarification. This is an example of a softer Shyamalan twist and one that would be more welcome in a film like Trap.

We shouldn’t want to write M. Night Shyamalan’s movies for him, because, that would take away from the fun of some of his better work. But, just this once, it might be nice to not worry too much about which aspects of the movie are lying to us. Shyamalan is a good storyteller. Hopefully, this movie, or a future movie, won’t keep us guessing, but instead, let us just see what happens next.

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