_ FHM x The Visit _
The master of spine-chilling cinema endings uses some of the greatest tropes in film. Nick de Semlyen, reviews editor at Empire, picks seven of his favourites...
WHY IT WORKS: The son of two doctors, M Night Shyamalan is himself a family man who brought up his kids in Philadelphia. It's not too surprising then that his movies frequently explore relationships between different generations. Most recently, new thriller The Visit shows what happens when two children go to stay with their dark-secret-harbouring grandparents. Between the scares, there are sweet moments as the children bond and their nervous mum checks in with them via Skype.
YOU WILL NEED: Parents, children, issues
AS SEEN IN: The Road, Panic Room, Cape Fear
TROPE: Surprise twist
WHY IT WORKS: The spoiler warning may as well have been invented for Shyamalan films: many of them boast outrageous rug-pull endings that leave viewers dizzy and desperate to watch what they’ve just seen again. Though The Sixth Sense’s revelation was less of a surprise in China, where the film was released with the over-informative title He’s A Ghost.
YOU WILL NEED: Child with a gift, Bruce Willis, dead people
AS SEEN IN: Fight Club, Shutter Island, The Usual Suspects
TROPE: Troubled hero
WHY IT WORKS: The stakes of a suspense movie are much higher when the hero is a screw-up. Will they manage to shrug off their demons and solve the mystery? And will anyone believe them if they do? Many of Shyamalan’s lead characters are loners, not least security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis) in Unbreakable, a man who is blighted by marital problems, unemployment, injuries from a car accident and a boring name.
YOU WILL NEED: Actor who can look convincingly depressed, tragic backstory
AS SEEN IN: Vertigo, The Woman In Black, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
TROPE: Creepy setting
WHY IT WORKS: This is a no-brainer: don’t set your thriller in a delightful sunny meadow. Unless it’s one infested by killer bees. Or, as in Shyamalan’s The Happening, evil wind. Taking its cue from apocalyptic classics of yesteryear, the film amps up our anxiety with images of eerily deserted city streets and farmhouses. See also: The Village (a fairy-tale forest full of menace) and Lady In The Water (a Philadelphia apartment complex in need of both a handyman and an exorcist).
YOU WILL NEED: Shadows, spooky music, a disturbing paucity of people
AS SEEN IN: 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, Children Of Men
TROPE: Wise child
WHY IT WORKS: In scary movies, the kids are usually the first to identify the threat. “There’s a monster outside my room. Can I have a glass of water?” asks Bo, played by five-year-old future star Abigail Breslin, in crop-circles chiller Signs. As with Cole in The Sixth Sense, the grown-ups don’t know whether the danger is real, or just in her head. Either way, it’s a sure-fire shortcut to the heebie-jeebies.
YOU WILL NEED: Precocious child actor (pushy mother optional)
AS SEEN IN: Pan’s Labyrinth, Aliens, Looper
TROPE: Colour symbolism
WHY IT WORKS: Like his hero Stanley Kubrick, Shyamalan is a master at using bright colours to manipulate our emotions. In The Village, yellow means good; red means very, very bad. In Unbreakable, the hero and villain are delineated by the colours green and purple. If you look down and see the colour brown, you may have become too frightened by the film and should make your way to the nearest bathroom.
YOU WILL NEED: Paintbrush, paint.
AS SEEN IN: The Shining, Suspiria, Sleepy Hollow
TROPE: M Night Shyamalan
WHY IT WORKS: Shyamalan loves to show up in his own films, often casting himself as someone heroic or delivering a key bit of information. So there’s an element of suspense in waiting to see exactly how he’ll shoehorn himself into the plot. He’s a doctor in The Sixth Sense, a neighbour whose knowledge saves the day in Signs and a writer with the power to change the world in Lady In The Water. Perks of the job, eh?
YOU WILL NEED: Director who might just be a frustrated actor
AS SEEN IN: Any Hitchcock film
The Visit _ is out 9 September. Watch the trailer now... _
_ Words: Nick De Semlyen _