Why M. Night Shyamalan dug into the vault to film 'Knock at the Cabin' with old cameras from the 1990s

In 1999, The Sixth Sense established writer-director M. Night Shyamalan as a promising talent in the horror space. His subsequent features (Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village) proved he wasn't a one-trick pony, but a refreshingly creative storyteller who could refurbish even the most worn-out of genre tropes. Now, more than two decades and 11 movies later, the filmmaker known for his patented twist endings hopes to recapture some of his old magic with Knock at the Cabin.

Based Paul Tremblay's 2018 novel — The Cabin at the End of the World — the story takes place at a remote cabin in the woods where a young girl (Kristen Cui) and her parents (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) find themselves under siege by a group of four armed strangers (Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint) claiming that the world is about to end.

"I'm drawn to older ways of telling stories," Shyamalan told Empire for the magazine's January 2023 issue (now on sale). To that end, he shot the project on cameras and lenses from the 1990s. He secured equipment that was even older for a number of flashbacks. "They were barely functional," he recalled. "At certain focal lengths, they would become out of focus. All of those imperfections are part of it."

The hope was to make something akin to "a dark fairy tale," the director said. "There's a little girl that's sitting in the grass playing, and a giant comes up and shakes her hand and says, 'Somethings' gonna happen to your family' ... I love telling dark stories and I'm going to guide you through some really horrific things, but you can feel the narrator believes in humanity."

A major theme he wanted to explore was how fragile our notion of a house (or in this case, a cabin) being a place of safety really is. "When you get a knock at the door, our fears make us think, 'Wait a minute, this is all a facade. Anyone can come in here and do whatever they want.'"

Shyamalan — who adapted the source material with Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman — produced the feature alongside Marc Bienstock (Old) and Ashwin Rajan (Wayward Pines). Steven Schneider (Paranormal Activity), Christos V. Konstantakopoulos (The Lobster), and Ashley Fox (Promising Young Woman) serve as executive producers.

Knock at the Cabin will step over the threshold and into theaters everywhere on Feb. 3, 2023.

In the mood for more high-concept horror? Jordan Peele's Nope is now streaming on Peacock.

Resident Alien Season 2
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