M. Night Shyamalan’s Fears and Redemptions

Adam Nayman in The New Yorker:

In M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie, “Knock at the Cabin,” a couple vacationing in rural Pennsylvania with their adopted daughter realize that they are not alone. A group of travellers is watching them from the trees and encroaching on the property. The films of Shyamalan are filled with such uninvited house guests. The big twist in “The Sixth Sense” (1999)—the one that turned its director into the most reliable American brand name in narrative trickery since O. Henry—finds its roots in a home invasion: a naked, emaciated mental patient appearing at Bruce Willis’s broken bedroom window. Intruders—be they human, monstrous, or extraterrestrial—figure into similarly unsettling set pieces in “Unbreakable,” “The Village,” and “The Visit.” Even Shyamalan’s flashy Will Smith vehicle, “After Earth” (2013), which has a crashing spaceship and futuristic monsters, pivots emotionally on a flashback featuring a breached family dwelling. The new film is an adaptation of a novel by Paul Tremblay, “The Cabin at the End of the World.” Shyamalan’s title lacks the apocalyptic overtones but has an added hint of playful urban-legend malevolence: that “knock” is the terrible sound of letting the wrong one in.

“These are just my fears, dude,” Shyamalan told me via Zoom recently. “I got married when I was twenty-two, and I’ve got three girls. We’re all incredibly close. My parents live nearby; my sister lives nearby. We have kept the family unit super tight, at the center of everything. So the fear of ‘Where is your daughter?,’ ‘She was supposed to be home,’ or ‘She didn’t call’—those are what start me writing. It’s working through these fears and then attaching them to some kind of supernatural manifestation.”

More here.