4. Signs (2002)
The Twist: The aliens' Kryptonite is water!
The Gist: Shyamalan's invasion story is a taut, genuinely spine-tingling thriller that ends not with a bang but a ''Whaaa?'' After being trapped with one of the creatures, ex-priest Graham (Mel Gibson) and his creepy-cute kids (Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin) eventually discover that the power to defeat it has been inside them all along: The otherworldly species has an adverse reaction to H2O, the substance that makes up 50 to 65 percent of the human body and covers about 70 percent of the earth's surface. As dei ex machina go, this one is particularly bad — but it pales in comparison to the other contrivances Shyamalan piles on in the film's third act. A sampler: Graham's water-phobic daughter has conveniently left half-filled glasses all over the house! His asthmatic son is safe from the aliens' poison gas! Their sainted mom foresaw the whole thing right before she died!
The Shaking Fist: Wait, did the aliens not recognize all that the blue stuff when they put our planet in their crosshairs? And had they never heard of rain?
3. The Village (2004)
The Twist: It's not the past!
The Gist: Seemingly set in a late 19th-century settlement, Shyamalan's monster movie (which bore striking similarities to Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel Running Out of Time) featured no monsters at all — only men in costumes trying to scare their neighbors. If that wasn't enough of twist, the film's real gotcha moment comes when heroine Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) emerges from the woods to find (gasp!) a car; she's then informed — by a park ranger played by Shyamalan, of course — that her forebears had been lying all along, that they'd withdrawn after being unable to cope with the harsh realities of modern society.
The Shaking Fist: Did you really just negate everything that made your story compelling, sir? Why yes, yes you did.
2. The Happening (2008)
The Twist: Killer trees!!!
The Gist: A woman on a park bench casually removes her hairpin and stabs herself in the neck with it. Members of a construction crew methodically throw themselves off a roof, one by one. A zookeeper straight-up feeds himself to a bunch of lions. Why? It's not due to genetic warfare or some sort of supernatural evil force — it's because the world's plants have started to notice that we're not treating them very well, and they. Are. Pissed. That's right: partway through the film, we learn that humanity is being targeted for extinction by a toxin that's being released by innocent-looking flora. Better bring that lemon drank inside, Mark Wahlberg.
The Shaking Fist: Ludicrously enough, Shyamalan's eco-terror idea had sort of been done before (are we noticing a trend?)...but at least Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was supposed to be stupid.
1. Lady in the Water (2006)
The Twist: M. Night Shyamalan is a brilliant auteur, and everyone should stop being such jerks to him!
The Gist: Like many great narrative works, Lady in the Water is essentially about storytelling. Unlike those other works, this painfully whimsical film is calibrated to celebrate the profound storytelling abilities of a single person — its own creator. Shyamalan humbly casts himself as a struggling writer whose work will someday inspire a great leader to bring forth a new age of prosperity, according to a prophecy delivered by Bryce Dallas Howard's magical narf (don't ask). She has come to Earth specifically to be his muse; his neighbors, too, each play a predestined role in the narf's tale. Those roles (Healer, Guardian, Narf Shirt Provider) are easily deciphered by the building's resident boor, an arrogant film critic named Mr. Farber (Bob Balaban) who declares that there's ''no originality left in the world.'' Except, wait! It turns out that Farber's who's-who predictions were all wrong, and he's eventually eaten by something called a scrunt (again, don't ask).
The Shaking Fist: Did I mention that Howard's character is named ''Story''? Dude, come on.