By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B- (3 stars)
HALLELLUJAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry just had to get that out, anyway, director M. Nigh Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) had quite an interesting career in filmmaking. He started off on top of the world with the 1999 Oscar nominated thriller, The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and Haley Joel Osment which was widely praised by critics and audiences alike, was a box office hit during its theatrical release, and was nominated for numerous Academy Awards.
The following year, he directed Unbreakable, it received favorable reviews from critics and audiences when it came out in 2000, though more people were split on the movie, but it certainly wasn’t bad. Then we move into the 2002 film Signs which starred Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Abigail Breslin, which like The Sixth Sense received very positive reviews from critics when the film was released, but later reception was more negative, and thus beginning the hilarious downfall of Shyamalan’s career.
After Signs, his movies kept getting sillier and sillier, from The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, to his cinematic tragedy, The Last Airbender, his hilariously bad, Devil, and the movie that failed to make Jaden Smith a star, After Earth, all hope was lost for Shyamalan to direct a good movie again like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable…until now.
In comes his latest film, The Visit, produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity franchise, Insidious trilogy, The Purge), which at first I was expecting this movie to crash and burn like Shyamalan’s other recent films after I first saw the trailer before one of Jason Blum’s other recent thrillers, Unfriended. Shortly afterwards I posted a link to the trailer on my Facebook wall claiming that if it doesn’t get at least a 60% or higher score on Rotten Tomatoes, I wouldn’t go see it, well, it did, so a deal’s a deal and I went to go see it.
And it pretty much delivered what I was expecting, but in a good way, the film is shot in a found-footage style with a handheld camera and cheap effects, a creepy tone, and when it needs to be, unintentionally hilarious, although perhaps it could just be M. Night Shyamalan making fun of his own directing style, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining film by him and these come incredibly rarely.
Brother and sister, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould-Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Paper Planes) and Becca (Olivia DeJonge-The Sisterhood of Night) are sent to their grandparents’ remote farm in Pennsylvania for a weeklong visit by their single mom. At first it seems very pleasant, the grandparents are nice, the home is comfortable, the farm and woodland area is strangely beautiful, and the nearby town has a lot to see, perfect for Becca’s homemade documentary film about her mom and grandparents’ lives and for Tyler to gain inspiration for his dream career of being a rapper.
However their Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie-And the Band Played On, Zelig, Big) informs them that Nana (Deanna Dunagan-Men Don’t Leave, Running Scared) is “Sick” and tells them that they have only one rule, don’t ever leave their bedroom after 9:30 PM because they’re old. But that’s not entirely true.
Every night, Becca and Tyler hear noises coming from downstairs and they eventually realize that there is something wrong; their grandparents are involved with something very disturbing. Either they’re paranoid, psychotic, or just odd.
They’re determined to find out what’s wrong with them but their chances of returning home safe and sound are growing smaller every day.
Overall, The Visit is a thoroughly enjoyable M. Night Shyamalan movie, the film is shot well and mimics a home movie, it doesn’t go right into the horror or Shyamalan traditions, lots of buildup and atmosphere and it’s decently done here, and of course it’s chillingly funny, still not sure if it’s intentional or not.
Oxenbould and DeJonge are pretty decent young actors and unlike other Shyamalan movies, they don’t talk or act like Shyamalan characters, their acting seems very natural to how kids usually act, I hope they go somewhere because they got talent. Now the traditional Shyamalan characters are present and they’re the grandparents, every time they’re on screen they look like a blend between both kind and threatening.
Fortunately the Shyamalan twist doesn’t derail the movie, it’s a well thought out twist, but it does result in hilarity overload, but not in a bad way. This movie blows The Last Airbender and After Earth out of the water when it comes to Shyamalan, it’s no Shyamalan masterpiece like The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, nor do I consider it a “Good Scary Movie”, but in terms of entertainment and just plain absurdity, this movie delivers and it’s a sign that M. Night Shyamalan is slowly making a comeback to good movies, as long as we don’t get The Last Airbender 2.