The real final surprise plot twist in ''The Village'' may come in the form of a copyright suit. The New York Times reports that author Margaret Peterson Haddix and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, are mulling a suit over alleged similarities between M. Night Shyamalan's thriller and Haddix's 1995 children's book, ''Running Out of Time.''
Upon the movie's release two weekends ago, journalists asked Haddix if she had licensed the rights to the book to distributor Disney and Shyamalan, pointing out such plot similarities as the 19th-century hamlet where the elders keep a particular secret from the young, and a feisty tomboy who travels through a perilous forest to get medicine. Haddix says she's never spoken to Disney or the filmmaker. But she saw the movie last week and told Reuters, ''I saw the same similarities that other people have pointed out.''
''This is a children's book...that sold more than half a million copies and won prizes, so it's not an obscure book for us,'' Simon & Schuster spokesperson Tracy van Straaten told Reuters. As for a possible lawsuit, Haddix said, ''It's certainly an interesting situation. I'm just examining what my options are.'' In response, Disney and Shaymalan's production company, Blinding Edge, have issued a statement, saying they ''believe these claims to be meritless.'' Shyamalan issued a similar denial last year when screenwriter Robert McIlhinney sued, claiming that the director had based his 2002 hit ''Signs'' on McIlhinney's script ''Lord of the Barrens: The Jersey Devil.'' That suit is still pending.