Visit on a micro budget

Shyamalan made The Visit for less than $6.9 million.
Shyamalan made The Visit for less than $6.9 million.PHOTO: UIP

LOS ANGELES • Nana and Pop Pop seem like the perfect grand- parents. They bake cookies, go for long walks and volunteer at a local psychiatric hospital. But after the sun goes down, things get weird in M. Night Shyamalan's latest horror movie, The Visit.

The film, out in theatres, follows teen siblings Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) as they are sent by their single mother to meet her estranged parents for the first time and stay with them for a week.

Shyamalan, 45, is known for supernatural movies such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and Signs (2002).

His own teen film-maker self seems to have inspired the precocious Becca, an aspiring documentarian who films everything during the siblings' visit, including their grandparents' bizarre behaviour as night falls.

The film was written, directed and produced by Shyamalan on a micro-budget of under US$5 million (S$6.9 million). He partnered with horror producer Jason Blum and Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures for distribution.

"I love constraints, both financially and creatively," Shyamalan said. "Passive entertainment, where you do everything for the audience, is not what interests me. I want you to fill in gaps... the budget helps you think like that."

The film, which has earned mixed reviews, picked up a sterling US$25.7 million at the North American box office last weekend. It had been expected to pull in between US$15 million and US$17 million.

It follows Shyamalan's first foray into television as the executive producer of Fox's 10-part summer sci-fi mystery thriller Wayward Pines. The hit TV show, set in a town shrouded from the outside world, "directly affected The Visit and how I shot it", Shyamalan said, referring to the faster pace and smaller budgets of working in TV.

"It taught me what's important and how to get the things out of the actors fast and really concentrate," he said. "What it did for me is tell me how lazy I had become as a film- maker."

The Visit marks a comeback for Shyamalan, whose career was colder than one of those dead people in The Sixth Sense after Lady In The Water (2006), The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013) all flopped.

He dismissed those lacklustre performances and said he was focusing on bringing a refreshed self to movies and TV. "The whole point is to make different movies, make genre-bending movies," he said. "It's all about Wayward Pines and The Visit right now, that's where my tonality is right now, dark humour and mysterious."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Visit on a micro budget'. Print Edition | Subscribe