Goth Chick News: M. Night Shyamalan’s Secret Project Revealed

Goth Chick News: M. Night Shyamalan’s Secret Project Revealed

SundowningIt’s been nearly a year since we wrote about M. Night Shyamalan leaking a few cryptic Tweets about his double-secret “micro-budget” film called Sundowning – or at least that was what it was titled on the clapboards.

To clarify, “micro-budget” is the latest, sexier term Hollywood has assigned to “indy” films, or rather films made outside of the studio system and without their financial backing. Then all you have to do it take a quick look back at M. Night’s last few outings to know that making a film inside the studio system is probably not a viable option for him at the moment (see After Earth and The Last Airbender: though personally I had a ton of fun with Devil).

Back in February, 2013 M. Night was sequestered somewhere in snowy Pennsylvania with a paltry crew of ten, cast included. Considering the setting, the title and the fact that some fairly significant horror movies have been filmed on shoestring budgets, we here at Goth Chick News along with our favorite fan boys had our money on a vampire movie.

I mean even a good set of fangs are fairly reasonable cost-wise, and everyone in New England is pasty this time of year anyway…

M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan

Still, not for the first time (or the last I fear) M. Night has thrown a curve ball.

Universal Pictures has announced their acquisition of worldwide distribution rights to The Visit: the aforementioned micro-budget film which M. Night wrote and directed in such a covert fashion. Filmed in and around Night’s own home, the budget was apparently so micro that M. Night self-financed it (could there really be some Sixth Sense money left?).

He then partnered with Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions which specializes in producing small-investment / huge-return genre movies such the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister franchises.

Perhaps there is hope here after all…?

The Visit focuses on a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.

Sundowning crew-smallAccording to IMDB the cast and crew size has grown considerably since our first report and is officially listed at around 100, which is still considerably smaller by about 80% to an average studio film.

They also list the film’s budget at $5M which I suppose is “micro” compared to Titanic, but looks pretty meaty when compared to The Blair Witch Project which was made for $60K.

IMDB has cataloged The Visit under the “comedy” as well as “horror” genres which I must say make me ever so slightly worried all over again. M. Night carries the writing credits on the film, as well as those of director; couple with the fact that until now we were unaware he actually had a sense of humor that was intentional…

Just saying.

Wayward PinesThe studio has set The Visit for release September 11, 2015.

As a side note, M. Night is also in the process of executive-producing and directing the pilot for Wayward Pines, the Twin Peaks-esque Fox series about a bucolic Idaho town hiding some fairly heinous secrets.

It’s set to launch for Fox’s 2015 mid-season in May and stars Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Terrence Howard and Toby Jones.

Looks like we’re all seeing dead people these days…

Alright boys and girls, what do we think? Will The Visit be M. Night’s return to the storytelling that got our attention in the late 90’s? Or should we hope he has some tidy real estate investments to fall back on?

Ape, Ty, Oz and my beloved Art – I know you lot have an opinion so let’s hear it. Go on post a comment, you know you want to. Or drop a line to

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Nick Ozment

I don’t know…I’ve been disappointed by M. Night for enough outings now that I don’t go in with any high expectations.

I haven’t seen Devil yet, although I do have it on DVD and will get around to it one of these nights. I intentionally skipped The last Airbender, after a trusted friend and fellow fan of the Nickelodeon animated series decried it as “The Last Crapbender.”

I was still trumpeting M. Night as the next Alfred Hitchcock with Unbreakable (2000). Signs was okay, but in retrospect the first signs of trouble are on display there: the way all the elements are planted so neatly to stage the now-parody-inviting M.-Night twist ending. The Village was his first film that I left feeling really let down, in this case by the “Scooby-Doo” cop-out twist.

Although he hasn’t delivered another film to match his early promise since the early 2000s, I must admit that in every one of his projects (that I’ve seen) there are truly unforgettable scenes — little moments of haunting cinematic magic that the over-arching narrative does not quite live up to: for instance, in The Happening, the scene in which the old lady comes walking around outside the house methodically pounding her head through each window. A scene like that, lifted out of its narrative tethers and seen without context, would be like a particularly vivid and disturbing nightmare. But, in the case of these latter films — to flip around an old saying — the whole is LESS than the sum of the parts.

So he’s got the chops. The question is whether he can produce another story worthy of them.

Ty Johnston

I gave up on M. Night a long while ago, though admittedly I’ve not seen his last couple of films. I’ve thought of him as similar to one of those bands that’s first album is awesome, you can listen to it from beginning to end over and over again, but then each album after that is a little less than the one before until eventually you’re left with mush and state fair appearances playing the same 3 songs over and over again.

Still, if someone tells me M. Night has put out a new, good movie, I’d probably give it a shot. One can dream.

John ONeill

I’m an outlier, as I consider some of M. Night Shyamalan’s later films to be excellent. I was very impressed with the delicious creepiness of THE VILLAGE, and I thought LADY IN THE WATER was a brilliant kid’s movie, though totally mis-marketed as a horror film… it’s a fabulous fable, and still one of my kids’ favorite films.

I haven’t seen THE LAST AIRBENDER, but I agree completely with Sue that DEVIL is a terrific little horror film.

Michael Mock

One of the things that my wife remarked in relation to The Sixth Sense was that, in listening to the commentary, it seemed like Shyamalan had absolutely no idea why the movie worked. I enjoyed Unbreakable and The Village, and Signs even made sense once I realized that it wasn’t really an invasion but rather a xenosociology experiment being performed on the ostensible protagonists by the aliens.

After that, though, I kind of stopped watching; and I can’t say I’m terribly enthused by what I’m hearing about The Visit. The “small crew working in isolation” approach can produce some really good things, but Shyamalan strikes me as the sort of erratic genius who really needs to have someone who can tell him when he’s going off track and needs to either cut some things out or change direction.

Matthew Wuertz

Please don’t flame me, but I also really liked The Village, ending and all. I wasn’t that big into Signs, and I’ve heard enough mumblings around other films that I probably won’t see them. I take that back; I do still have an interest in seeing Devil at some point, but it’s not high on my radar at the moment.

If I hear some good things around this latest project, I’m up for watching it. But I’m not going to be one of the early viewers taking a chance.

James McGlothlin

I’m also a big outlier here. I loved Signs, The Village, and Lady in the Water. In fact, I think those movies are much stronger than Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I also enjoyed Devil and the first 3/4 of The Happening. And since I loved the book, I was really excited at the time when I heard Shyamalan was thinking about directing The Life of Pi.

However, I didn’t even try to watch The Last Airbender; the trailer made the movie look so pathetic.

I say all of the above to emphasize that I am very excited about the possibility of a new Shyamalan project. I agree he probably needs to drop the “twist” ending and develop some other story telling skills. Nevertheless, I know this guy has more good cinematic storytelling in him. I’m hopeful that his “fall” from Hollywood grace will drive him back to his strong creative juices.


I like his films, but I think you have to be careful with your expectations or you’ll be underwhelmed.

Sarah Avery

The tiny budget is actually the thing that has me most optimistic about a return to his original promise. A strict constraint can force you to be really creative to work around it. I think about Matthew Barney sculpting and drawing while literally tied back, because he believes that creativity only emerges when it encounters resistance.

Okay, never mind, because now I’m imagining Shyamalan absorbing the influence of Barney’s Cremaster films, and that would probably be catastrophic.

Nick Ozment

John, Matthew, and James,

I would not reproach anyone for liking The Village. The “delicious creepiness,” as John put it, of the Big Bad Wolf stalking the woods has maybe never been done better, which is why I could not get past the disappointment of the big reveal that, hey, it was just some wanna-be Puritan bloke running around in a costume scaring the children.

Certainly one could leave the theater impressed by the whole set-up and thinking, “How clever. It all makes sense.” But I couldn’t overcome the emotional letdown long enough to appreciate it cerebrally; ergo, for me it was akin to pulling the mask off of Old Man Jenkins (who then grumbles, “And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”).

M. Night — he conjured this incredible archetypal monster and then — and then — he — he took away the monster!

(And I know, I know, you could say he removed the mask to reveal that the monster is us, or that it was a commentary on the human origin of the monsters in the fairy tales, etc. But Scooby-Doo/Ann Radcliffe explanations aren’t my cup o’ tea: I want monsters in my monster movies.)

The Happening: I’m also inclined to agree with you, James, that the first half to two-thirds of the film is absolutely riveting, a slow-build doomsday scenario that is truly creepy and unsettling. The final act got bogged down and, I think, ran up against the simple problem that the whole threat was invisible. I’d love to be able to say he pulled off making wind blowing across a field of grass scary, but no. Once it had built to a grand climax of two people bunkered down hiding from wind, there wasn’t much there to work with — he sort of blew himself right into a corner.

John, I only saw Lady in the Water one time back in its theatrical run, but I remember enjoying it — liked the quirky interactions between Paul Giamatti’s character and all the other eccentric tenants of the apartment complex. But I also remember thinking, “This isn’t the film the studio made it out to be in previews at all. A lot of folks here are going to be disappointed.” I think the way you described it is a much more accurate summation.

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