Monday, September 28, 2015

The Visit Review

The Visit Review
When I saw "The Sixth Sense" for the first time, I was up all night not being able to sleep. When I saw "Unbreakable" for the first time, I revered in the awesome it created. When I saw "Signs" for the first time, I was with my older brother and our family friend for a midnight movie and "Signs" was everything I was hoping for. By that time, M. Night Shyamalan was being hailed as the next Steven Spielberg, and at that moment in time, I would have believed it. I saw "The Village" with the same family friend, and we were definitely let down by it, but when you see a filmmaker make three amazing movies right in a row, you get a certain high that is unquenchable and its easy to overreact when they step off their game. I don't think "The Village" is the worst thing I've ever seen anymore, there is some good stuff in it, but Shyamalan's weaknesses showed through in a big way with that movie, and at the time, I hoped it was going to be a misstep in an otherwise sensational career. But then he got worse, and worse and worse and worse to the point that he has become a self-parody. I have read that "The Visit" is suppose to recreate our faith in Shyamalan.

Its a pretty simple story and Shyamalan funded and shot the movie itself. It revolves around two siblings (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) are sent by their mom to see their grandparents, even though their mother has had a rocky relationship with them for some years. The oldest sibling has decided to record the entire trip in order to get answers to why there is a wedge in her family. Their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan) are welcoming and warm, but there is definitely something off about them. That off feeling gets worse and worse as the week progresses and it leads to a profound revelation.

Yep. M. Night Shyamalan has gone back to his twist ending with "The Visit," the thing that kind of became a trademark through his first four movies. Though, while so many people are calling the ending of "The Visit" as a twist ending, this is not a twist. It is an explanation to what is going on so that the movie itself holds up. Also, by Shyamalan standards, its a pretty low budget "twist," or what I call explanation. We know right off the bat that not all we see is what it seems, but when the big moment is finally revealed, you really can't think of another scenario that would have been more surprising or shocking. The way in which the scenario plays out is so quick and on-the-nose that I wondered why Shyamalan did it in the first place. But for fans of his older work, something of a curveball is thrown near the end.

Like I said above, the film was funded by Shyamalan himself. So I understand why he did found footage, because its cheaper than shooting with a studio camera. Here's the thing, Shyamalan doesn't improve upon any of the found footage cliches. His movie is not innovative enough, or scary enough to be found footage. Okay, let me back up a bit. There are a couple of effective boo scares in the movie, but overall there was not much scary footage or ideas in the movie. Shyamalan doesn't illuminate his movie to a higher standard with the device. Its just used because its a cheap tactic. In fact, "The Visit" would have been a much better movie if Shyamalan just decided to not do the found footage thing, and that is what is most disappointing.

I can say that Deanna Dunagan plays one creepy grandma. There is a scene in the middle of the movie when the kids hide a camera in the living room an when grandma goes downstairs to go crazy, its such a powerful scene. I usually don't scare with the boo scares, but this one was too good not to get a reaction from it. Dunagan really amps up the creepy in scene after scene after scene and there is much reason to look away, not wanting to look at the screen in order to save your dreams for the night. The performances all around are pretty solid and I think the cast does what they can. But this movie feels so much like every other found footage movie that merit just kind of bounces off of me, especially when Shyamalan's worst traits are alive and well here.

Shyamalan has proved that his writing skills are what killed most of his recent offerings, and "The Visit" is no different. There is a stupid trait with the boy in this movie about him wanting to be a rapper and the subplot goes nowhere and is a dead end from minute one. There is also a couple gross out parts in the movie that walk the tightrope of being funny. I have seen several horror-comedies and horror tends to tip in either direction at times. It seems to me that Shyamalan was trying to make a legitimate horror movie, but when he makes his movies unintentionally funny, well it comes off rather odd. Its too bad, because there are actually a couple good tense moments in this, but some odd writing choices really anchor the movie down.

I don't think Shyamalan will ever compare to Steven Spielberg, and while I think "The Visit" is better than "The Happening" or "Lady In The Water," but its a minor step up than a major. Its a movie that would have been much better as a regular movie than a found footage movie. I also think if Shyamalan committed to a tone, it would have been stronger overall. Will we ever see another masterpiece from this guy? I don't know, but telling from this latest entry, it seems he's still a long way off.


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