SPOILER ALERT...NOT! M. Night Shyamalan's ''The Village'' was in theaters for just one week before its twist ending was divulged in national newspapers. On Aug. 6, reports circulated that the movie's plot bears a curious resemblance to that of a young adult novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix. ''Running Out of Time'' features a tomboyish girl who leaves her isolated 19th-century village in search of medicine, and, well, let's just say she gets a surprise. Haddix says she and publisher Simon & Schuster are ''weighing our options'' in pursuing legal action (in the meantime, the 1995 novel is now featured on the front page of the Simon & Schuster kids website). A statement from the Walt Disney Co. and Shyamalan's Blinding Edge Pictures called any claims of plagiarism ''meritless.''
Either way, word is out. And folks behind ''The Village'' can't be pleased; movies featuring such narrative tricks depend on tight lips. Shyamalan's ''The Sixth Sense'' (1999) earned $294 million thanks to the well-kept secret that Bruce Willis' character was dead all along. ''The Crying Game'' (1992) grew into a hit asmost kept mum on its surprise -- until Miramax campaigned for leading lady Jaye Davidson to land a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Even Alfred Hitchcock famously instructed theaters not to admit latecomers to 1960's ''Psycho'' in order to build buzz for its shockerthat star Janet Leigh is killed early on.
But ''The Village'''s real twist may be the one at the box office. Bad reviews and worse word of mouth are keeping many viewers away from Shyamalan's monster melodrama altogether. Scary.