Knock at the Cabin: How M. Night Shyamalan Played With Audience "Twist" Expectations

Knock at the Cabin's biggest draw is no doubt the fact that it's another horror-thriller from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan. However, over two decades since he single-handedly changed audiences' expectations of cinema with The Sixth Sense, "The Shyamalan Twist" has become something of a gift and a curse for the filmmaker. It's hard to keep surprising audiences when you're the person they come to expecting the biggest surprises of all. So how did Shyamalan get over that hurdle when making Knock at the Cabin? 

ComicBook.Com got a chance to sit down with M. Night Shyamalan when at the junket for Knock at the Cabin, that was one of the first questions we had to ask: how does he still play with audience expectations when we sit down for one of his films?

"It really is much more organic than that," Shyamalan explained. "It's really each story and the characters involved with that story and trying to make the characters feel a certain moment of revelation or be shocked or something getting dark or unexpected for them. So, that's where I come from, more of the characters' experience. But then, the audience then is supposed to be one-to-one with the characters, so they often hopefully feel what the characters are feeling.

Knock at the Cabin star Ben Aldrige was not nearly as humble or analytical as Shyamalan when explaining his experience reading the script: he didn't need a "twist," given what Shyamalan had planned for the movie:

"It was shocking... He called me and said, 'I want you to be in the film. Now, you can read the script.' And up until that point, I didn't know what it was about. I didn't know the size of the part, how much Andrew was in it. And it was, honestly, it was shocking because of how violent it is, how visceral, the stakes, the premise of it all. I was like, 'We're gonna... Sorry, we're gonna do what? Oh, okay. Now they're gonna put white bags on their heads and now we're gonna have to make this choice.' And just thinking, it scared me, intimidated me."

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan didn't just keep the actors in the dark with the script of Knock at the Cabin: he made them feel the mystery and tension unfold, even as they were filming the movie: 

"Night kind of held everything back from us and I dunno if that was by design or whatever, but it really just kind of unfolded before us," Aldrige continued. "And because we shot it mostly in chronological order, he was able to do that. We were kind of able to experience it as the characters did."

Find out how that approach translates to film when Knock at the Cabin opens in theaters on Friday.