M. Night Shyamalan is no stranger to horror. Almost every single one of his movies can either be classified as outright horror or heavily feature horror elements as part of a related subgenre (your precise definitions may vary, but all of The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable, The Village, The Visit, and Split fit comfortably within one of these two categories). In that light, it’s a little surprising — but mostly intriguing — to hear what the divisive auteur has to say about his approach to horror. Check out the new featurette for Old below.
“I don’t ever think I make horror…ever.”
The featurette starts with this somewhat surprising statement on Shyamalan’s part, but it actually makes a fair bit of sense. Admitting that Old is “disturbing and dark,” the filmmaker draws somewhat of a distinction between that tone and horror in general.
“Horror has almost a sense that that’s the destination. This is meant for us to come out on the other side with a belief system stronger for it.”
While some may find this to be splitting hairs a bit, it’s an important hint towards the shared hopefulness and optimism inherent within Shyamalan’s overall filmography. The trailers obviously are doubling down on the sinister overtones and body horror of it all, but some early reactions seem to indicate that this focus continues with Old. Everyone has their own strong and intensely subjective feelings about many of his latest films, to say the least, but even a widely-accepted classic like The Sixth Sense ends up revealing itself to be a story about connection and empathy that rings all the truer because of the gruesome horror we endured to get to that point.
Shyamalan continues, briefly recapping his own career, how each film reflects the particular place in his life he was in at the time, and tapping into a particular universal anxiety with Old:
“These movies, the original movies that are mine, they represent where I am at each moment. Unbreakable represents where I was. Split represents where I was. The Visit and you name it. And then my father and mother who are getting, you know, very old and what do I feel about that? When I go there, the roles have switched.”
The story goes that Shyamalan was gifted a copy of the 2010 graphic novel Sandcastle as a Father’s Day present, and he was so grabbed by the story that he sought to purchase the rights to film a story inspired by the book (rather than a direct adaptation). Based on these quotes, it’s easy to see why it made such an impact on the storyteller.
Old scares its way into theaters on July 23, 2021.
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