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With his latest filmTrap,” filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is letting the audience in on one of his signature twists a little earlier this time around.

In a new trailer for the thriller, which was first shown during the Warner Bros. CinemaCon presentation in early April, star Josh Harnett is first shown as a dad taking his teenage daughter to a pop concert akin to one of the blockbuster tours that dominated summer 2023. Leaving his seat for the bathroom, Hartnett’s character notices a higher-than-normal police presence around the venue and asks a concessions worker if he knows what’s going on. Turns out that the Lady Raven concert is a sting operation to catch a serial killer on the loose in the city. After thanking the worker for the tip, Hartnett goes into the bathroom stall, pulls out his phone, and opens an app that reveals security footage of a person trapped in a house begging for his life, meaning all signs point to this father figure being exactly who the police are looking for.

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While one could imagine that the idea was birthed by this past year of record concert grosses, M. Night Shyamalan came up with the film two years ago, inspired in part by experiencing what life as a recording artist was like for his eldest daughter Saleka, who is signed to Columbia Records and plays Lady Raven.

“Sometimes, culture moves in your direction, and sometimes it doesn’t,” the writer-director told IndieWire at a recent Summer of Shyamalan event thrown by Warner Bros. (The studio is also releasing “The Watchers,” the feature directorial debut of his other daughter Ishana Night Shyamalan, in June.) “In this case, the culture of concerts is crazy now. Taylor [Swift] and Beyoncé — it’s just such a thing in culture. And I do think gathering together is so precious to us now. Maybe we took it for granted before our phones and COVID and all that stuff. It’s wonderful that the culture moved toward this idea,” he said. 

Despite the more recent examples of cinematic concerts, Shyamalan shared during a Q&A portion of the event that the film “Trap” took the most inspiration from was “Purple Rain.” Yes, part of the joy of making the film was making viewers “one-to-one with a character and then taking advantage of that,” said the director, but telling a story with an actual concert functioning as the main set piece, similar to Prince’s Oscar-winning 1984 film, felt like less trodden territory.

“A diegetic where the song is actually part of the story and fusing these two worlds together. It doesn’t happen very often, if ever,” said Shyamalan during the Q&A. “We fully had to make a concert and then we made the movie. That’s going on. It’s real, it’s legit. Everything about it. You could go to it, and you would love it,” he added in the later interview. “Every detail is thought out, and that’s happening as this is happening at the same time. I think that’s what makes it feel so astounding.” 

Though the initial assignment he gave her was just to fill in the beats he’d marked in an outline of the film with whatever music Saleka felt fit, “she just went away and wrote, interestingly enough, slightly scoring it in the way she was writing the songs. I didn’t ask her to do that. She was just feeling it out and was commenting on the scenes,” said Shyamalan. “I’d say, ‘This is what’s happening in the movie,’ and then she’d write something, a pop song, but yet it was referencing and had a mischievousness or something that was talking to the characters.”

The director also talked about how casting Hartnett as his lead was about finding “the right person at the right time.” The actor, who is coming off of a critically acclaimed episode of “Black Mirror” and a standout performance in Best Picture winner “Oppenheimer” (two roles that helped put him on Shyamalan’s radar), had teased “Trap” to IndieWire at the 2024 SAG Awards in February by saying “People are gonna be really surprised and excited about the movie we make. It’s very bizarre, very dark, and it’s wild.”

Shyamalan echoed the same sentiment at the Summer of Shyamalan event, saying, “I leaned more and more to this dark humor angle that ‘Servant’ has, and ‘The Visit,’ and ‘Split’ has. Really embracing that, and making sure it’s just a fun time for everybody gasping. It’s odd to be laughing when you should be terrified, and terrified when you’re laughing at the same time.”

Watch the trailer for “Trap,” out August 9, below.



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