September 11, 2015 / 5:06 PM / 3 years ago

Shyamalan creeps into micro-budget horror with 'The Visit'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nana and Pop Pop seem like the perfect grandparents. 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.”

Director M. Night Shyamalan poses for a portrait during the 2015 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, California in this July 9, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files

The film, out in theaters on Friday, 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, known for supernatural movies such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” channels his own teen filmmaker self into the precocious Becca, an aspiring documentarian who films everything during their visit, including the bizarre behavior of her grandparents as night falls.

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

“I love constraints, both financially and creatively,” Shyamalan told Reuters. “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 has earned mixed reviews and is projected by to open with $17 million this weekend.

“The Visit” 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 television.

“It really taught me what’s important and how to get the things out of the actors fast and really concentrate,” Shyamalan said. “What it did for me is tell me how lazy I had become as a filmmaker.”

“The Visit” marks the Philadelphia filmmaker’s return to the big screen after films that failed to spark up critics or box office, such as 2008’s supernatural “The Happening” and 2013’s sci-fi movie “After Earth.”

Shyamalan dismissed those lackluster 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 humor and mysterious.”

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Nick Zieminski

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