Friday, September 11, 2015

The Visit Review

I was so not excited for this movie. I'll admit that I haven't seen every single one of M. Night Shyamalan's films, but his last few were so bad that I had completely given up on him as a writer and director. The Happening? The Last Airbender? After Earth? Oh my freaking gosh. I still get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I think of those movies. And to think that this is the same director that gave us The Sixth Sense? What in the world happened to this dude? I think I'm going to subscribe to the theory given by Jeremy Jahns. I think Shyamalan was abducted by aliens and was replaced by this other robot Shyamalan who couldn't make a movie to save his life. However, there was the hope that this movie was going to be his comeback film. But that's what people have been hoping for several movies now after mediocre reactions at best to movies like The Village and Lady in the Water, but things just kept getting worse. The trailer for The Visit looked interesting. But then it said "directed by M. Night Shyamalan" and I just checked out. Early reviews came in as positive. But I still wasn't buying it because plenty of later reviews counteracted that as the movie is struggling to stay above water with it's Rotten Tomatoes score. But since reviewing movies is what I do, I went to see it anyways. At the very least people need to know my opinion of Shyamalan's latest. And do you know what? I was shocked. This is actually a pretty good movie. Shyamalan just might be back!

I don't want to spoil too much of this premise, so I'm just going to let you know the basics. This is a found footage horror movie. Or at least that's what this is labeled as. This felt more like a thriller than a horror, but meh. Semantics. The movie follows two kids who are going to visit their grandparents for a week so that their mom can go on a vacation with this other guy who is not their dad (he left them). The daughter has decided that she is going to make a documentary of this week long trip to Grandma and Grandpa's because the mom is not exactly on good terms with her parents. So she is filming everything and thus we get our found footage angle of the movie. I'll talk more about the found footage aspect of it in a bit. Everything seems all hunky dory at first. The internet isn't very good. They don't have cell reception. But it's just a week at the grandparents. Nothing bad is going to happen, right? Ha ha! Not. We quickly learn that grandma is not quite right in the head. Grandpa tells the kids that bedtime is 9:30 because they are old. So the kids are up in their room, not being tired and suddenly they realize that bedtime is 9:30 because that's when Grandma goes crazy. This is all just the first night at the grandparents. We got a whole week of movie to make it through and I will let the rest of the week be a surprise.

Found footage. Let's talk about that first. This is a genre that was initially clever and unique. I liked it. But then studios realized that it is super cheap to make a found footage movie and thus it got used over and over and over and over to the point where it was no longer clever and unique, but rather was old and annoying. I still love Cloverfield and Chronicle. Those are two excellent movies where found footage was done really well and added to the plot. Cloverfield without found footage would be lame. Chronicle without found footage would've worked, but not quite as well. But now all the recent found footage movies are lame because found footage is useless. Earth to Echo? No reason for the kids to film their footage. Project Almanac? Same thing. These movies actually could've been a lot better without the found footage. Thus I am extremely picky nowadays when it comes to found footage. Did The Visit need to be found footage? No, it didn't. Shyamalan could've done without found footage in this movie and it would've been a bit better I think. But if you decide to do found footage, at the very least do it right. Shyamalan does it right. Some found footage movies will have extra noise and music that wouldn't exist if you made a your own video. That's dumb. This movie didn't have that. Also, a girl deciding to do a documentary of the week at her grandparents' house was a legit excuse to do it. Yes, there were some times where they should've just put down the camera and run. Some footage was also a bit too professional for her age. But overall it wasn't bad.

I also mentioned that this movie felt more like a thriller than a horror to me. I said that because this really isn't a super scary movie. For most of the first half of the movie, the sequences are light-hearted and even fun. The little brother is quite the funny kid. You know there is something off with the grandparents, but the weird, creepy moments are just small teasers in the first half of the movie for what happens at the end. Even the second half of the movie isn't super scary. So if you are going into this movie with the idea that you are going to be terrified from beginning to end, you're probably in for the wrong movie. This isn't me hating on the movie, though. Horror wasn't required for me here. What we had was a really interesting story about two kids that get stuck in a really bad situation and are trying to figure out how to get out of the situation. This isn't riddled with jump scares. It's not super gory. There are no awful, scary monsters chasing them. But it does get super intense in the second half of the movie and that leads to some pretty good thrills. I'm not going to lie, there were moments in the first half of the movie where I was pretty bored and I thought this was going to be yet another Shyamalan dud, but then it picked up and before too long I found myself fully invested in the movie.

What really helped this movie do well were the great performances from the whole cast. It was kinda risky for Shyamalan to decide to have his next movie be led by two young kids since his last two movies were kid driven and really sucked. There was actually some decently talented kids cast in The Last Airbender, but Shyamalan's directing efforts made me think that perhaps they should go back to school and pick a different career. But then I see them in other movies and realize that perhaps Shyamalan was the problem. Same thing with Jayden Smith in After Earth. I've seen that kid do well in movies. But his acting was worse than a brick wall in After Earth. So Shyamalan is going to try it again with two more kids in the lead? That's sounds like a bad idea. But for some reason it worked out really well. I'll do a little bit of name dropping here and say that these kids are played by 17-year-old Olivia DeJonge and 14-year-old Ed Oxenbould. I've never heard of Olivia and the only other movie I've seen Ed in is playing Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Great find by the casting director of this movie and great job directing them by Shyamalan. Also the grandparents were fantastic, specifically Deanna Dunagan as Grandma. She was perfect as a lovable Grandma and also perfect as a completely psychotic crazy woman, which made her moments as a lovable Grandma rather terrifying.

Overall, I was rather surprised by M. Night Shyamalan in this movie. If we continue with the belief that M. Night Shyaman was abducted by aliens and replaced with a different Shyamalan that didn't know how to direct movies, we can say here that the original Shyamalan is now back. No, this isn't on par with his best movies that he made early in his career, but following those, movies like The Visit are the movies we all wanted and expected him to make and I am happy that we got him back. When he's on his game, the style of movies that he makes are the style of movies that I personally really enjoy and I really hope he's able to stay back on Earth and give us more movies like The Visit. No, this isn't a scary movie, but it's a movie that does provide a lot of really good thrills and has an intriguing story to go along with that. All of this is made even better by a great cast, led by two young kids and a Grandma that just nail their performances. I thought I was going to hate this movie and I was ready to rip apart Shyamalan once again, but I'm really happy that I'm finally praising Shyamalan once again. My grade for The Visit is an 8/10. 

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