With Olivia DeJong, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, Peter McRobbie, Deanna Dunagen
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
(Competition details at the end of the review)
Oh M. Night…or can I call you Manoj...? The world's love/hate relationship with you is a contentious one…
Your first directing efforts impressed us with three genre-bending breaths of fresh air in the shape of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs (giving the ghost story, the comic book superhero & -villain, and alien invasion themes an amazing new texture, depth and renewed invigoration). Your trademark Shyamalan twist punchlines always threw the viewer for a loop. I was even impressed when I spotted you as screenwriter of Stuart Little(!)
But your recent big budget studio productions like The Last Airbender and (Smith vehicle) After Earth deflected your more intimate touch, got a bit lost in spectacle, and sadly didn't impress me as much; your in-betweeners of The Village and The Lady In The Water wasn't bad, but didn't grab completely. The Happening had me intrigued and hanging for, well, something to happen - but it didn't! (maybe that was your in-joke on everyone who has now come to expect you to jump a big surprise on them at the end?!) Your TV production of Wayward Pines (with reminiscent hints of The Village in its main premise) had its moments, but forced my interest to wander.
Yet, I never gave up on you like so many have, seeing them unnecessarily spewing vitriol on how much you suck. Hey, for any filmmaker to have three cool, unique and successful movies under their belt in one lifetime (let alone early in their career) is nothing to sneeze at! And to expect someone to hit the mark every single time (with so much riding on the outcome) is ridiculous. But in our on-line connected world everyone feels their opinion is the most noteworthy and the entire world should know it(!) So, while I'm sure you don't give it much heed, I reckon it can be annoying.
But, one cannot deny the fact that you know your way around a script and a set!
When I heard the next M. Night Shyamalan movie will be in conjunction with Blumhouse (who brought us the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchise, and many others), I was interested to see what the result would be of these two formidable forces meeting.
It has become customary for many new Horror-themed movies to opt for the found footage style. Mr. Shyamalan, did you research the demand for this and whether its effect is sustainable? While this is a technique Blumhouse is fond of, I feel it has gone a bit overboard in many respects. Did you find this to be exciting new territory to strip things down and place the viewer in terrifying situations directly via the characters' point of view?
In The Visit this style is utilized in the shape of a teenaged girl shooting a documentary of her and her younger brother's first encounter with their grand parents. Many years back their mother had a fallout with them and broke all contact. Their father left them, which has lead to some emotional tension and much to be resolved. But when the grand parents reach out wanting to meet the grandkids, they take the train trip out to the rural areas, cameras in hand. As they get to know the old folks, it slowly becomes clear that they (especially the grandmother) are a bit weird… until this weirdness turns downright insane! With no huge sets or CGI effects, but rather a focussed story-driven journey with well-placed chill inducing scares, it is a welcome diversion from the recent After Earth.
The Shyamalan trademark of bright (sometimes too adult) kids is present, and while Ed Oxenbould is quite the character, the Rap / Hip-Hop aspirations of his character seems out of place and silly, leaving me unsure of whether it was a bad move or stroke of genius to add a lighter sense of humour…?
One element that always bites my ass in a found-footage-styled movie is how the camera's microphone always seems to pick up everyone's voice clearly, as if they're miked up - the same happens here.
If you want that big M. Night twist, there is one, but maybe not as huge as you'd have hoped (being more along the lines of an '80s slasher movie - you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it).
So M., while this is by no means your best work, you added a good addition to this genre, and you are certainly heading in the direction to be back on form.
Keep 'em coming!
4 / B
- Paul Blom
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WIN!: Want to win one of 5 The Visit aprons (and a DVD of The Skeleton Key thrown in for good measure)?
Head to the Flamedrop Competition Page for details.