HORROR has had its fair share of mysterious men, tearaway teens and spooky strangers, but grandparents have largely remained cosy, cuddly and kind characters.

Here to change all that is director M. Night Shyamalan.

Known for helming creepy tales The Sixth Sense and Signs, his new film The Visit - which is billed as both a horror and a comedy - shows a set of grandparents in a new light.

"Generally speaking, The Visit is about our fear of what happens when we get old," explains 45-year-old Shyamalan. "It's about all those phobias we have about how our brains and bodies deteriorate."

Following a family feud with their daughter, played by Kathryn Hahn, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) have never met their grandchildren, Becca and Tyler.

But when their mum goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend, the young teens, played by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, track down their grandparents on Facebook, and with their mum's consent, take the train up to where they live and spend a week getting to know them.

Armed with their video cameras, Becca and Tyler try to get to the root of the rift, but before long, are left spooked by their grandparents' strange behaviour.

Before The Visit jitters its way to the big screen, Shyamalan opens up about his own fears, films and rap ambitions.

He said: "If the hallway in a movie looks like my hallway, I start to get nervous. If it doesn't look like anything real, I don't get scared of it. You know when they do crazy things in gory movies where there's blood on the walls? I've never seen blood on the walls, so that doesn't bother me, but I have heard a noise in the house that makes me feel that someone's there.

"I have felt weird about going in basements. I have felt weird about going in attics. The smallest thing can make you scared."

Old pals Bruce Willis, who starred in The Sixth Sense and 2000's Unbreakable, and Joaquin Phoenix, who was in The Village and Signs, will be cropping up again in two new - and separate - projects that Shyamalan is working on.

"I get very close to the actors in my films," says the India-born film-maker. "Even the kids who have worked in my films, I get so proud of them when they grow up. Some of them get Academy Award nominations and become really, really successful actors.

"When I'm writing, sometimes I think of stories for people I've already worked with."

While 1999 hit The Sixth Sense garnered a raft of nominations and praise, the director's later work hasn't captured the Zeitgeist in quite the same way.

So was it a pressure to follow up on the late-Nineties thriller, which starred a young Haley Joel Osment as a child who saw dead people?

"I don't see it that way," Shyamalan admits. "I always think of the artists I know, whether musicians, writers, film-makers - they never have the experience that the media is having [of their success], it's not even close."

In the year The Sixth Sense was released and riding high in the box office, so too were some other films Shyamalan worked on.

"I wrote Stuart Little," he says. "I re-wrote another movie for Miramax that year, a young romantic-comedy. That movie I rewrote for Miramax became their number one movie of that same year, and Stuart Little became the number one movie for Sony that year, the same year as The Sixth Sense. So you can see my experience was a time of richness."

Whether horror, comedy, mystery or family adventure, Shyamalan uses the same formula while working on new films.

"For me, the best thing is to just think of new characters and write the next story," he says. "I've gotten better at that, by the way."

Earlier this year, Shyamalan ventured into television, with his creepy series Wayward Pines, which was shown on Fox and starred Matt Dillon. But the new medium proved a frustrating one.

"The thing I don't like about television is not knowing the end," he says. "I watch an episode and I can feel the storytellers are just dancing, they're not aiming at some place. That frustrates me. I want to know the end of the story completely, and if I can think of an end for this story, then we'll tell the rest of it.

"I'm talking with a bunch of writers, so hopefully when I get back [from the current press tour for The Visit], we'll keep going with Wayward Pines."

While the supernatural is his forte, he does enjoy being able to lighten the mood in his films.

"I like writing comedy, strangely enough," says Shyamalan. "In The Visit, there's a lot of comedy, so hopefully I can incorporate it into my future movies."

One of the characters in the new film even raps, but the director has no desire to step behind the mic himself.

"My rapping skills are very poor," he says, laughing. "I did write those raps, but I'm not a frustrated rapper at all, definitely not."

The Visit is on at cinemas now.