‘His way of tapping into people's fears and surprising you is unique,' says Rupert Grint of M. Night Shyamalan
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is the master of subtle, yet ‘sit on the edge of your seat' cinematic moments.
Known for helming creepy tales like 1999's The Sixth Sense, The Village and Signs, the director's latest offering, Knock At The Cabin, is another psychological thriller that is as much mind-bending as it fright-inducing.
“It's a modern-day biblical story,” Shyamalan says of the film. As its name implies, the story takes place at a cabin, where a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four strangers who demand that they choose to kill one family member or else the world will end.
At the centre of the story is gay couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), along with their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui).
The fearsome foursome of strangers who arrive at the isolated cabin are Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adrianne (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint).
Based on Paul Tremblay's horror novel, The Cabin At The End Of The World, Shyamalan references his latest Apple+ TV series, Servant, when talking about the film.
Servant, which recently ended with a fourth series, documents the strange goings-on in the brownstone where couple Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell) live, with nanny Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free) who looks after their baby, Jericho.
The series also starred Harry Potter's Grint as Dorothy's brother Julian, meaning Knock At The Cabin was a chance for Shyamalan and Ron Weasley actor Grint, 34, to reunite.
“The idea of telling large-scale biblical stories, but in modern times and in modern settings, is resonating with me right now,” explains Shyamalan.
“The film is reflective of my current feeling that everything that's going on in the world doesn't look good and doesn't feel good, but I do feel we are struggling together in the right direction.
“We're certainly not getting it right all the time, but in general, the direction that we're moving as humanity is in the right direction and we deserve a chance to continue.
“That's my feeling.
“One love story is evidence enough that humanity should keep going.
“Knock At The Cabin is this incredible opportunity for us to experience this gigantic, global, biblical story through the experience of a family.”
The director, 52, adds: “If you think of religion as mythology, like the mythology of aliens or the mythology of ghosts, that has interested me before. I grew up in a very religious household and I think of it as mythology.
“And what would it be like, if a version of it was real? How would it manifest?”
For Grint, whose other projects include films including Thunderpants and 2009's Cherrybomb, there is something “quite seductive about apocalypse movies”.
He explains: “There is this fascination with an apocalypse, and people love contemplating what that would look like.”
The character of Redmond was also appealing to him, because, in his own words, he's “the worst person to have in this kind of scenario”.
“He's very hot-headed, and angry. He represents the kind of angry man, and just everything is everyone else's fault.”
He also relished the chance to work with Shyamalan again.
“Personally, I've always been a huge fan. I love his work,” Grint says.
“I think his way of kind of tapping into people's fears, and always surprising you is really unique.
“Over the years, you develop this kind of shorthand. I kind of know what he expects from me. And likewise, his notes are always so perfectly thought out.”
Guardians Of The Galaxy actor Bautista, who plays Leonard, reflects on going from professional wrestler to actor and why this role was a crucial one for him.
The 54-year-old American actor says: “My claim all along is that I didn't need to be a movie star. I left to be an actor. I was doing great in wrestling.
“I left on top, but I left because I love acting so much and I wasn't able to pursue it while wrestling.
“The money and the spotlight, that means nothing to me. I just love this craft and I want to be respected by my peers. So, this role was a big opportunity for me.”
Though all the action is set within the confines of the cabin, working with one location as the central hub is not alien to Shyamalan.
“Most people ask me about this proclivity for putting things in one space, in this one as much as any of the others, or more so,” he reflects.
“It just doesn't even occur to me that that's an issue. I don't know why. You know, for four years (in Servant), we never left the brownstone, and there's ways to make it feel huge.
“I guess for me when I watched movies when I was a kid and saw movies like The Exorcist, which primarily, predominantly takes place in a girl's bedroom, it felt like the biggest movie I'd ever seen, because the subjects they were talking about were so large, and because it was reduced down to something that I could relate to, a bedroom, a kid's bedroom.
“It felt real. So I was having a real vocabulary about something extraordinary.”
Pennyworth, Fleabag and Our Girl star Aldridge describes working in and navigating the one location as “intense”.
The 37-year-old actor says: “It was an intense film to make. I feel like the script is like a runaway bullet train and the scenes – we were doing these long five, seven-page scenes, which is long for a film – and you'd get in that claustrophobic set, get tied to a chair, my heart would start racing, like I'd start sweating, I'd start feeling the things that I was trying to play, almost.
“We all really got on and we had such a laugh off of set and in between takes sometimes, because you just need to shake it off.
“I've never done a horror film before and I was scared of the script when I read it, and then I was scared when we were making it, and I'm still scared.”
Knock At The Cabin is in UK cinemas from February 3.