The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable; these are 2 films that solidified a young M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation as someone who would go on to be the next big name director in the 21st century. The future was very bright as of the year 2000…Then he made a hilarious film called Signs that was meant to be a horror thriller…Then there was an ordinary film with an okay twist called The Village…and then…Lady On The Water (Pretentious trash)…The Happening (Hilarious pandemic-based horror thriller)…The Last Airbender (An insultingly bad live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender, 1 of the greatest American cartoons ever made)…and After Earth (A Will and Jaden Smith film that was the polar opposite of The Pursuit of Happiness)…After directing 4 of the worst films from the last 10 years, you are right to assume that M Night Shyamalan possibly sucks…But are we truly right about this? Lets look at his latest film; The Visit.
Before we begin, consider this: This film cost 5 million dollars! Nearly 10% of the budget he needed to make The Happening. On top of that…this is a very, very different film to what he has ever done before. It cost him $5,000,000, and it shows. Because this is the 1st time M. Night has ever used the Found-Footage Horror movie approach to make a film (Blair Witch? Paranormal Activity?). All he needed was the actors, the locations and the script. The film doesn’t even have any copyright music or film score, so in it’s own way it’s also a take back on the Dogme ’95 movement.
So what’s the story? Well, it’s about 2 teenage kids, 15 year old Becca Jamison (played by 17 year old Australian actress Olivia DeJonge) and her 13 year old brother Tyler (played by 14 year old Australian actor Ed Oxenbould), who are going to go stay with their grandparents (Who they have never seen or met until now) for 5 days, while their mother Loretta (played by Kathryn Hahn) goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend. The siblings decide that as “future documentary film makers” they should film everything that happens in their 5 day trip, hence why this is a found-footage film. Set in a Pennsylvanian Winter, they arrive by train to meet their Grandparents before appearing at the family home. The grandparents are awesome – telling them that they can do what they want, and eat as much as they’d like. But they need to be in bed by 9:30pm every night…or at least don’t leave their room. And don’t go into the basement which is full of toxic mould. So in true story fashion, they have to break the rules and see what they mean.
Now to break it down into pieces:
The Acting in this film was actually very good. Ed Oxenbould as Tyler was a little annoying at times, but that’s just the character he’s playing, and he did show some skill. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie were really good as “Nana and Pop-Pop”, and Deanna Dunagan showed an excellent range of emotion without any cutaways from the camera, which was great stuff!
The Characters are good, but also kind of annoying. The older sister is presented as being a 25 year old trapped in a 15 year old’s body, while the younger brother is…well…Perhaps he’ll be the next Eminem in 2020…or he’ll make Vanilla Ice today look like Dr Dre straight out of Compton. The grandparents are well presented with the small detail of Nana being a hippie in her youth as a good way to justify her quirks, and the horror are also well presented…oddly realistic, and even quite funny.
The Story, at least on paper, and along with the acting and location choice, is probably the best part of the film. It’s pretty tight, with some small loopholes that will sadly lead to spoilers if I mentioned them. It’s simple, but nicely put together and makes a lot more sense than usual. Also, yes, it has accomplished its Horror Comedy approach quite well – especially in the 2nd viewing (something Shyamalan films are known to make people do).
The choice of Pennsylvania in winter was well made – providing a small aspect of…Stanley Kubrick, to the story…yes. M Night is showing some shades of Kubrick in this. Or at least that’s my opinion.
The Cinematography is…easily accessible. Since it’s a found-footage film, all that’s required is a really good cameraman. It’s not in league with what Kubrick and Sergio Leone were known for. But when you have $5 Million to shoot a professional level movie and the likes of The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity proved the approach can be successful, it adds to the effect.
Would I recommend The Visit? Sure. It’s actually pretty well done and took me by surprise, but it’s also a film that requires 2 viewings, as it comes across as weird in the first viewing. It’s easily M. Night’s simplest film – It doesn’t try to be overly innovative or intelligent, instead it chooses to be a lot more straight forward in its storytelling with emphasis on developing the kids as characters, as well as the grandparents and the evolving horrors. To say the least, this might be M. Night Shyamalan’s 3rd best film…in fact that’s exactly what it is. But in my opinion, there is 1 way to make this film’s experience even greater…by releasing 3 versions of this film: The final cut, which combined Horror and Comedy, The Pure Comedy Cut, and The Pure Horror Cut, and sell them in a 3-disc Box Set. If anybody with connections to this film’s marketing is reading this: Consider it.