While M. Night Shyamalan’s “Wayward Pines” is killing for Fox, his next genre offering is gearing up for a fall release.
Shyamalan returns to his roots with The Visit, which tells the story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip only to discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing.
In theaters September 11th, Steve Barton caught up with Shyamalan at the San Diego Comic-Con where he talked about trying to tell a truly terrifying tale.
“I love scary movies,” Shayamalan tells us. “I never really considered my previous films as scary though… but The Visit? Yeah! This is the one. The intention of the film is to thrill and scare. I mean, sure, with The Sixth Sense and Signs, there were some terrifying things about those films, but I would consider them more thrillers than horror films. Making The Visit was A LOT of fun, and that translates to the screen when you watch the movie. The weirdness of The Visit is actually my favorite part. It’s mischievous. When watching the flick with an audience, invariably people start reacting; they’re like ‘What the fuck? What did I just see? What does that even mean?’ The audience intuitively knows that they’re being fucked with but in a very fun way. Pulling the rug out from the viewer and making them laugh and scream is what it’s all about for me. I really got into the dark comedy aspects of The Visit. The movie is just brimming with David Lynchian strangeness. I like it.”
Shyamalan is very much known for having his films feature some mega-sized twist. We asked about his tendency toward surprising the viewer.
“In order to do that, you as a filmmaker have to be okay with something,” Shyamalan elaborates. “That something is you have to be okay with the audience not knowing where they are for a while. You have to be fine with them coming to a conclusion against you. The more an audience commits to their assumptions, the more that you have them. When I first saw The Exorcist, I fell instantly in love with the shape of that movie. It starts in the Middle East, then it gets really quiet for a while, and then it just RAMPS up; and The Visit has that kind of structure to it. It’s meant to build slowly at like 10 miles per hour, then 15, the audience goes, ‘Ugh, I just want them to push it to the edge already.’ Audiences today are used to action-porn or CGI-porn to the point in which they just shut down. With me, I’m trying to hook them. Make them think. The speed keeps building and suddenly – WHAM – we’re at 60 miles per hour but it suddenly feels like 90. The audience gets that adrenaline rush, and that’s the shape, you know? You have to have confidence to make them think that the shape is ‘this’ and then morph into another one.”
As he’s both a writer and a director, we wondered what part of the process most excites him as a filmmaker.
“I love the solitary nature of writing. That process usually takes me about six to eight months. Towards the last couple of months I start letting other people in to read it. I really need that decompression time just for me and the characters to listen and to learn. Once I’m ready to get a bit more physical, the director in me takes over. I’m very gregarious. I enjoy trying to help and inspire people. By the time I’m done shooting, if I have nothing left in me at all, once I’ve given a project everything I have to the point in which I can no longer even get up… then I know I’ve done it correctly. Then we head into the editing room, which isn’t as solitary of an experience because obviously you have your editor there, so it’s slightly safer because you’re no longer in the moment. The next step is promotion, which lasts a couple of months. After all that I’m ready to be alone again… searching for the next story or character. That’s been the cycle for me; it’s like the passing of the seasons.”
For The Visit the horror comes from an older couple, and we all know… old people can be pretty frightening sometimes. Especially when they’re acting kind of odd. We asked Night about the nature of his latest scare duo…
“No matter how you slice it, when people begin acting odd, things can get frightening in a hurry. Something that’s frightening to a viewer triggers their sense of the unknown. It could be little things… a noise in another room, even a job offer or a commitment to a relationship. All of those things can trigger an unknown fear factor. It’s interesting that fear can be triggered by having an elderly person do something that is just crazy weird. The situation can be both hilarious and scary. You’re having two emotions boiling over at the same time. That’s what I wanted The Visit to do to the audience. The challenge of the movie was striking that perfect balance between humor and horror. This one took me a LONG time to edit. Much longer than I thought. The very first cut that I put together was like a full-on art house film. Then I went comedy, like it had all of these comedic tones, then I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s anchor this as a thriller.’ Once I came to the conclusion that the predominant spine of the movie was indeed a scary thriller that becomes a horror film, then I knew which of the other things… the artsy things… the humorous things… could stay in service of the movie.”
The Visit was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Erica Lynne Marszalek, Peter McRobbie, Olivia DeJonge, Deanna Dunagan, Benjamin Kanes, Jon Douglas Rainey, Brian Gildea, Shawn Gonzalez, Richard Barlow, Steve Annan, and Michael Mariano.
Look for it in theaters on September 11, 2015.
Thanks to Dread Central for sharing some Comic-Con content!