Saturday, October 03, 2015

'The Visit' Is Shyamalan's First Step Towards Redemption

With films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, and a penchant for shocking plot twists, M. Night Shyamalan used to hold the reputation of being a groundbreaking filmmaker.  He was even called by Newsweek magazine at one time as “the next Spielberg.”  However, a streak of bad films, which got stupider and poorer in quality with each passing film, Shyamalan has become a pop culture joke.  (For the record, here are my thoughts on some of his bad movies: 1.) Though critically panned, I personally liked The Village, but this is where the streak is generally considered to have started; 2.)  I thought The Lady in the Water wasn’t too bad, but it’s indeed too convoluted; 3.) The Happening was the first Shyamalan movie that I completely found to be terrible; 4.) I haven’t seen the notorious The Last Airbender, and I’ve no intention of seeing this atrocity to a beloved animated series; 5.) After Earth is so bad, bland, and disappointing, that I couldn’t finish it.)

His latest film, The Visit, is somewhat a “back to basics” for him.  Compared to his previous projects, this movie has a smaller, scaled-down story and production.  But this probably allowed Shyamalan to rediscover himself and tap into the talent that enabled him to make his earlier movies.

The Visit is a nicely-done found footage film about a brother and a sister that are sent by their mother to spend a week with their grandparents, whom the mother has an estranged relationship.  The whole narrative is seen through the cameras of the siblings who intend to make a documentary of their visit.  The grandparents prove to be cordial and pleasant, but oddly instruct the siblings to not leave their room after 9:30 p.m.  As the days go by, the siblings notice that their grandparents are behaving more and more strangely, prompting the two to investigate and discover a terrifying secret.

As what it has intended to be, The Visit works really well.  It’s a solid horror comedy – decent with the laughs and scares.  It has a trademark Shyamalan plot twist that, though isn’t mindblowing, is executed agreeably.

The Visit is an enjoyable, good movie.  But it’s not exactly right to say that this is Shyamalan “returning to form” or “making a comeback.”  It’s not quite there yet.  He still has a lot to do to make up for The Last Airbender.  Nevertheless, this is a promising first step for Shyamalan in regaining his pedestal.  I’m looking forward to a strong follow up from him.

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