M Night Shyamalan: 'Old' is scary, but it’s not a horror film (exclusive)

·Contributor
·3-min read

Watch: M Night Shyamalan talks to Yahoo about Old

Ever since The Sixth Sense in 1999, director M Night Shyamalan has been trying to shake off the “horror” tag. 

His latest film Old, arrives in cinemas this week and, while he admits that it’s scary, he doesn’t see it as part of the genre.

Talking to Yahoo he describes his style of filmmaking as 'a whodunnit in various forms'. 

"I do enjoy the form of a mystery unravelling and revealing itself – I just find that fun,” Shyamalan tells us. 

“The format is very exciting for me, playing with the way I tell you how, for instance, he’s the killer. Or do I even tell you that? All that is fun for me.”

Read more: Shyamalan's secret to surprising audiences

Not that he denies there’s a scary side to his films. “I never describe it as horror,” he explains. 

“If I meet somebody who says they’re a big fan and then their husband or wife says they don’t like scary movies, I wonder what that has to do with me! 

M. Night Shyamalan on the set of Old.
M Night Shyamalan on the set of Old. (Universal Pictures)

"An aspect of them is scary, but the suspense, the mystery of it and the humanity are the things that draw me in.”

After exploring the world of multiple personalities and superpowers for Split and Glass, Shyamalan shifts his focus to a small group of people in Old which centres on a family holidaying on a secluded tropical beach which looks like paradise. 

But it’s a place where time is out of sync with the rest of the world, making them age rapidly and reducing their entire lives into just a single day.

Based on Pierre-Oscar Levy’s graphic novel Sandcastle, it’s a story that the director believes is more relevant to the current pandemic than he could ever have imagined. 

(from left) Prisca (Vicky Krieps), Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie), Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Trent (Luca Faustino Rodriguez) in Old, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
(from left) Prisca (Vicky Krieps), Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie), Guy (Gael Garci­a Bernal) and Trent (Luca Faustino Rodriguez) in Old, written and directed by M Night Shyamalan. (Universal Pictures)

“It’s strange how it all happened. I wrote it before the pandemic, I shot it in the pandemic and now I’m releasing it at the tail of it, as people are coming back into society. It’s very strange how the birth of it and what’s happened to all of us means we’re all speaking about the same things.”

Read more: Shyamalan explains why he turned down superhero movies

Shooting the film on a remote beach in the Dominican Republic under COVID restrictions, he recalled how the cast and crew were acutely aware that their story echoed what was happening in the outside world.

 “We were isolated together at a scary time, one that was uncertain in what was happening to us and the world.” 

Rufus Sewell as Charles in Old, written for the screen and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Rufus Sewell as Charles in Old, written for the screen and directed by M Night Shyamalan. (Universal Pictures)

He’s certain that audiences will see the similarities for themselves. “So many of the lines in the movie and what the characters are feeling are so germane to what we’ve experienced in these past 15 months,” he said. 

“When people are seeing this movie, they are reflecting in the same way on the things they were thinking when they were isolated. We felt that way when we were making it.” 

Old’s international cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, Alex Wolff, Eliza Scanlen and Rufus Sewell. 

Old is released in cinemas on 23 July. Watch a featurette below.

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