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#SDCC15: M. Night Shyamalan Talks The Visit and Wayward Pines

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The Visit

M. Night Shyamalan has had a storied career in the film industry which thus far has ranged everywhere from vehemently praised to absolutely maligned. Still, he keeps plugging away and currently has a kick-ass TV show on the air called “Wayward Pines”; and his new movie, The Visit, looks like a psychotically good time.

We caught up with Night in the midst of Comic-Con, and he had a lot to say about both projects and his approach to filmmaking.

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.

M. Night Shyamalan

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.

Creepy Night

And what of making a smaller film instead of the usual big-budget Hollywood fare?

Working with Blumhouse Productions and Jason [Blum] has been so liberating. There are very few producers in this world who fulfill the task of being there and supporting the filmmaker. He kept telling me to keep going and that he believed in what I was trying to say with this movie. Jason is the guy who works tirelessly to get everyone to believe in a project. He confronts everyone who tells him, ‘No this isn’t something,’ and tells them, ‘It is! You need to stick with it.’ I’ve seen him do this over and over again.

As for “Wayward Pines,” it’s already been stated that the show was “probably” only going to be running for a single season, but given its success, we inquired whether or not a second season is being talked about or is at all in the cards.

If we do take on a second season, I really want to approach it the right way,” said Night. “We’re not just going to say yes to another season because we can. I’ve been sitting with the writer of the book, Blake Crouch, and it’s important to be confident in what we’re doing and how we are doing it. As a storyteller I don’t think I could guide anyone if I wasn’t sure of where my aim should be. If we can get everything right, we will definitely talk about another season.

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.

Shyamalan produces The Visit through his Blinding Edge Pictures, while Jason Blum produces through his Blumhouse Productions alongside Marc Bienstock (Quarantine 2: Terminal). Steven Schneider (Insidious) and Ashwin Rajan (Devil) executive produce the thriller.

Look for it in theaters on September 11, 2015. For more info follow @TheVisitMovie on Twitter, and visit stayinyourroom.com.

Synopsis:
Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable) and producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Insidious series) welcome you to Universal Pictures’ The Visit. Shyamalan returns to his roots with the terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.

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The Visit

The Visit

The Visit

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This past weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA betwixt a double screening of The Shape of Water and the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the former’s director Guillermo del Toro (and star Doug Jones) sat down to discuss the latter’s influence on the film, Gill-man sex, “one sock movies,” his career in the genre, and more with moderator Jonah Ray, and we were there to film a portion of it.

Our sincere thanks to American Cinematheque general manager Dennis Bartok for extending the invitation.

For more Cinematheque screenings, visit the official website here.

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Now here’s an audio book we can REALLY get behind! Entertainment Weekly is reporting that former “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall will be narrating the first ever unabridged recording of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Sometime’s audio is better!

Readers have been asking for this audiobook for a very long time,” Stephen King said in a statement. “I know the listening experience will be worth the wait with Michael as narrator.

We’re thrilled to finally bring Pet Sematary to King’s audiobook fans,” Simon & Schuster Audio president and publisher Chris Lynch added. “Michael C. Hall is a perfect match for this timeless story, which has long deserved an unabridged production.

The unabridged audiobook of Pet Sematary will be released by Simon & Schuster Audio on March 27. Speaking of Hall… you know he would make a pretty friggin’ good casting choice to play Victor Pascow in the upcoming Pet Sematary remake. Just sayin’.

BUY IT NOW!

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The killer behind the sinister traps in Play With Me is known as the Illusion, with the player taking control of investigative journalist Robert Hawk as he tries to fight his way through a series of sick and twisted obstacles created by the lunatic. The voice acting in the trailer was a little cheesy, although we see at 1:09 that the player will be tasked with using a kitchen knife to cut open a dead body (presumably to retrieve an item hidden in the cadaver’s stomach), which is not an image you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

IQ Publishing are offering a 15% discount off Play With Me for those who purchase the game before January 24, so Saw fans might want to mark that deadline in their calendars and purchase it from Steam before the time is up. After all, it can’t be worse than Konami’s awful official Saw videogames.

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