The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan

What do you do when you have a fresh, young, phenomenon of a director, who is turning heads and breaking box office returns with every film he releases? You advertise the hell out of his new films as they come out, and try and get a behind the scenes expose on the guy, or, in the case of “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan”, you attempt to make the director seem more mysterious than he really is. Shyamalan is well known for his secrecy, and his demand for control over projects. The young auteur, who has been capturing the imagination of audiences ever since The Sixth Sense, has been likened to Spielberg and Hitchcock and is definitely a force to be reckoned with, within the new generation of film directors. So it’s no big surprise the Sci-Fi channel wanted to get an in-depth look at the man.

“The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” was originally touted as a three hour, unsanctioned and unauthorized look at M. Night – his past, his background, and his inspirations, along with a small behind the scenes look at M. Night’s film in theaters at the time, The Village. Shortly before the special aired on Sci-Fi, several websites started to claim the unauthorized look wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be, and may have even been created by Night himself. Sure enough, the day before the special was to air, Sci-Fi came clean and debunked it’s own controversy, before it was even broadcast. This was not a special Night was upset about, and was indeed a fictional piece of propaganda, designed to increase interest in Night and The Village.

Watching “The Buried Secret…” immediately recalls The Blair Witch Project. The film is shot in that same “realistic” documentary style, showing not only what’s being filmed, but also what’s going on with the three-person crew as they are filming. What starts out as a simple assignment to get interviews with Night, friends, and cast members from The Village starts to go strangely, as filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn and his crew move from authorized to unauthorized interviews and locations, revealing that there might be more to Night than he lets on, and that he might truly have connections to supernatural forces.

The problem… well, the first problem of many, is that unlike Blair Witch, “The Buried Secret…” is edited together. With Blair Witch we were supposedly watching raw footage filmed by the filmmakers. “The Buried Secret…” has music edited in, voiceovers to remind us of important information, titles, etc. That completely ruins the feel the special tries to create from its first moment.

Not just that, but none of the information given is either conclusive, or the least bit intriguing. People Kahn chats with online can see him through the internet, but it never comes back into play later on. Night seems to have supernatural things going on, but nothing “big” happens other than the occasional technical glitch with the camera and audio equipment. It’s as if every decent story thread that’s started is dropped before it can be used, leaving poorly conceived ideas to try and convince the viewer that Night is not telling fictional stories, but tales based on events in his own life.

The truth is, the concept is a good one, and if it had been properly done, this special could have added an air of mystery and fun to M. Night Shyamalan that could have eclipsed the poor reception of The Village. Instead this was a television special that not only didn’t increase my interest of The Village, but insulted my intelligence and interest in Shyamalan enough to depreciate my feelings toward his other films – and I’m part of the group that loved Unbreakable.

“The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” is unquestionably the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever seen grace a DVD. It tries too hard to be spooky, tacking itself firmly to the coattails of Blair Witch. However, like the other films that have followed The Blair Witch Project, it doesn’t live up to the original and, in this case, doesn’t live up to the mystery and suspense Night managed to create with his first few successful films. After watching this I do see M. Night in a whole new light… but it’s contempt for someone who would allow his name to be used to treat an audience this stupidly – probably not the original desired effect for the special, but the one I felt regardless. Everything about the DVD release of “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” points to the idea that this really should have been a bonus disc on a DVD set, not a stand-alone release, which is to say this crappy television special gets a DVD treatment that it deserves.

The case artwork borrows, or should I say steals from M. Night Shyamalan’s other films. Featuring an out of focus “S” (instead of a “6”) with Night standing in front of it, it’s the exact image of The Sixth Sense’s poster. Then the title of the documentary is presented in the same font as the title for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, complete with eclipsing sun behind the word “Night”. Even the layout of the cover of “The Buried Secret” is an exact duplicate of The Village’s corresponding DVD release.

Then there’s the special itself, which aired over three hours on Sci-Fi. The special is only broken down into three chapters, each roughly forty to forty five minutes apiece, or one hour of television time (minus commercials). There is no further breakdown of the chapters then that, so if you want to see the footage of Johnny Depp, you have to go into the chapter and fast-forward for five minutes to get there. This is an extremely disappointing presentation that is only rivaled by David Lynch’s decision not to include chapters on one of his films because he didn’t agree on breaking his movie up that way.

Once you’ve seen “The Buried Secret…” you’ve seen all there is to see here as well. There are no extras or bonus materials included. The crappy 124-minute documentary is it, and while I guess that’s understandable (there really is no reason for “behind the scenes” except for maybe an apology) it’s still a bit of a sham. DVDs just aren’t done this way.

“The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” is a poorly planned, unimaginative feature, and once it’s been seen once, there’s no other reason for its existence. While that would be acceptable as a DVD extra, it’s not something we should tolerate as a DVD feature presentation. If you want to know more about M. Night Shyamalan, use your imagination and leave this tripe in stores.