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M. Night Shyamalan the director probably gets too much shit from the general public.

M. Night Shyamalan the writer wholeheartedly deserves everything thrown at his head.

The Village and Lady in the Water were ungood. I can’t force myself to watch The Last Airbender or After Earth. But until my last breath, I will defend The Happening. Those who attempt to categorize The Happening as one of the worst movies ever made have no sense of fun and need to stop taking themselves too serious. The Happening was definitely dumb, but it managed to be entertaining.

The fatal flaw with The Happening was casting Mark Wahlberg as someone with a shred of intelligence. Marky Mark is perfect when playing the stupid manchild who never grew up. Trying to pass Mark Wahlberg off as even a high school science teacher is an unforgivable mistake. Listening to him fumble through science speak and lecture to students about bees still makes my ears bleed. Coupling Wahlberg with Zooey Deschanel’s permanently zoned out gaze only made things worse. John Leguizamo was definitely the best actor, and I usually can’t stand his rat face. But The Happening had some haunting imagery and inventive kills that will continue to live in my brain. The unintentional comedy of the bad acting clinic by Wahlberg and Deschanel along with the sublimely ludicrous twist was entertaining.

I watch so many bad movies and most are so awful that I completely forget about them.

There’s something to be said about a bad movie that’s so bad you enjoy it.

The Visit lives in a similar category for me. While a lot of people are proclaiming The Visit as M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie in years, I would continue to defend The Happening and argue that 2008 effort is better. But there are a handful of good things about The Visit that deserve attention.

In typical M. Night fashion, the directing outdoes the writing in this movie.

DeJonge

Found footage horror movies need to die. Although there are a few rare gems, it is an outplayed gimmick that is used to compensate for a lack of skill and technique. The main character Becca—played by Olivia DeJonge—is an aspiring documentarian, which is the bullshit excuse for why this trip to see their estranged grandparents needs to be captured on film. An accomplished director such as M. Night Shyamalan shouldn’t be slumming it with shaky handheld cameras, but at least he uses the gimmick well with this movie. There’s a hide-and-go-seek scene under the porch with grandma that is especially creepy.

Olivia DeJonge has impressive command and puts forth a quality performance reacting to all the odd chaos the kids encounter. While DeJonge is adorable as Becca, her likability is balanced out by her completely excruciating brother Tyler—played by Ed Oxenbould and his punchable face. I don’t know if it’s a Jack Gleeson case (Joffrey from Game of Thrones) where the young child actor is so good at portraying these awful, annoying traits that you hate him. Or maybe my visceral reaction to his voice and fivehead just conjures up rage. I was actively rooting for this character to die—at least for bad things to happen.

And this is what I’m talking about with M. Night’s unbelievably bad writing. Tyler self-imposes the nickname T. Diamond Styles because that’s what you do when you’re an over-privileged white kid who claims to be a freestyle rapper. Instead of saying curse words, this little douchefuck says names of pop stars like Shakira and Katy Perry when he’s angry. It is as unjustifiable and terrible as it sounds.

Oxenbould

How could you think that is a good idea? Too many confusing choices and bad ideas strewn together.

The best part of The Visit is the star, Nana—played by Deanna Dunagan. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve ever heard of Dunagan before, but she is fantastic as the creepy and ominous grandma. If you avoided the media blitz when this movie came out in theaters, then you missed an allusion to Hansel and Greta in a ridiculous yet gripping scene. Longs instances of boredom punctuated with interesting setups

Seriously, there are several substantial plot holes that Shyamalan ignores or glosses over. But I’ll forgive the questionable set-up and reasoning for the titular visit. To a certain extent, the downfalls of The Visit are forgivable because of the entertainment value. Watching Deanna Dunagan lose her shit is worth the price of admission alone. However, I could do without the two (yes, two) grandma ass flash scenes.

Nana No No!

Naturally, there is a twist forced into the story. Of course, you see it coming a mile away.

The twist is telegraphed with a heavy hand in a scene very early in the movie. Although a failed twist typically dooms the movie by rendering everything before it meaningless, that’s not the case with The Visit because the build-up was the best part. Despite the movie’s flaws, feeling the creepiness of meeting the grandparents was hair-raising. While the humor elevates this movie, there are several swings and misses. I wish M. Night infused more horror into the story to the detriment of its teenager appeal. I shared a theater filled to the brim with talkative little twats who thoroughly enjoyed the rapping of T. Diamond Styles.

Grandparents

As with most found footage horror movies, the ending seems slapped together. Nothing egregious, but I expect better from M. Night because he made The Sixth Sense. That’s like the equivalent of Michael Jackson making Thriller. And Unbreakable is phenomenal—possibly even better than The Sixth Sense.

About half of the movie works and the other half is excruciating. I cringed on several occasions.

I won’t go as so far to say that The Visit proves M. Night Shyamalan is back.

But it was a nice enough visit with the grandparents.

Twist

2.5 out of 5 stars

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