In 1999, there was a movie called The Sixth Sense. It was directed by an unknown filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan. It became the most discussed movie of that year, especially the twist ending. The following year he directed Unbreakable (my favorite of his films). A superhero movie set in real time. It didn’t get as much praise as The Sixth Sense; not to mention everyone comparing the twist to his previous film (which I completely disagree). After making Signs, Shyamalan was called “The Next Steven Spielberg”.
However, since The Village, his directing career begins to go downhill. Even though some people enjoyed some of his later films (I really liked The Village, and Lady in the Water is a guilty pleasure of mine), the rest started to hate him. After everyone panned his three previous shtick – The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth (which I regret seeing when it came out) – Shyamalan decided to return to his regular roots with his new film The Visit, a well-crafted, low-budget thriller with a perfect blend of [intentional] laughs and thrills.
Shyamalan returns to rural Pennsylvania where a divorced mother (Kathryn Hahn) sends her two children to visit their grandparents for the first time. Becca Jameson (Olivia DeJonge) is an aspiring filmmaker, who decides to document their visit. Her younger brother Tyler (a scene-stealing Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) is an aspiring rapper. They are warmly welcomed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). However, after 9:30 p.m., they realize some bizarre behavior from them. Day by day, they witness some behavior. Will the kids ever make it home in time?
The Visit proves the found-footage subgenre still works. With minimal music used, there are some tonal issues. One scene, in particular, reminded me of one of the cat videos where the camera person pans the camera back on the cat, the cat would come closer. Are we supposed to laugh or be scared? Other than that, I appreciated the brother-sister dynamic. They are dealing with their parents’ divorce. Becca’s documents on her grandparents and her mother make some emotional stuff. On the other hand, Tyler’s rapping and wisecracks had the audience in stitches. I have a feeling he would make an appearance on “Epic Rap Battles of History” someday. They are excited to meet their seemingly kind grandparents. And all the build-up leads to one hell of a climax. With a satisfying twist, all I can say is:
M. Night Shyamalan is back!