The Visit (2015)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cinematographer: Maryse Alberti
by Jon Cvack
I’m still confident that M. Knight Shyamalan will make another great film. Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense continue to be works of pure genius. I consider Signs one of the top 25 films of 2000s. There’s such depth to the story, where not since Spielberg was a mainstream popular director so great with the camera, utilizing incredibly creative ways of showing us information and immersing us into the world. Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense achieved similar results. Then The Village came and something was different. My love for film was just about kicking into full gear around this time, magnified when my high school buddy and current BFF took a cinema studies course and explained to me some of the symbolism within The Matrix and Godfather (namely, the tracks that Neo jumps away from, and the Manifest Destiny mural when all the mafia bosses get together). A bunch of us - film lovers or not - loved M. Knight Shyamalan. A different buddy of mine dressed up as him in order to do present a class report about his life. We all knew the next film would have a twist, and knowing only the plot, we were left to figure it out, which we hardly ever did. And then The Village happened.
It wasn’t a terrible movie. It just wasn’t that great. There was something missing and which I assumed was based on having a disappointing conclusion. Of course, this was M. Knight’s brand. And he had to deliver. I assume there’s an vast amount of difficulty in maintaining the twist ending format. The more successful the films, the higher the expectations were. My best guess is he fell victim to having too few ways to change the light bulb. Shortly after The Village was Lady in the Water (which in fairness I never finished, though that’s probably a pretty good gauge of quality, given how I rarely ever don't finish a film and can only think of a few others that I’ve had this experience this with). So I’ll just say it was really bad, but I really doubt it was as bad as The Happening, which was so terrible that I actually left the theater furious for having wasted my time, and now wonder if it was possibly Shyamalan's way of getting in a good laugh. That is, until he came out with After Earth, which I was once again hoping would revive his career given the cast, but heard was terrible, and then - skipping his foray into television - we end up with The Visit, which isn’t terrible. It’s just the same old Shyamalan, except now completely abandoning his amazing and breathtaking use of the atmosphere and camera in order to make a found footage film.
I didn’t mind the characters, but I’ve seen the precocious, college grade-level vocabulary sister character (who’s an early teen) at least a half dozen other times. The brother was pretty good and his ability to break out into freestyle was only mildly believable, but hilarious enough to forgive. I will say it’s the best twist ending since Unbreakable - though this is comparable to stating Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi.
I’ve come to accept found footage as a pretty cool subgenre, revived with one of my all time favorites The Blair Witch Project and graduating to such awesome films as Europa, Creep, and The Sacrifice. Once again, M. Knight is surprisingly mute with his style. I understand that it’s from the kids' POV so it can’t be Deakins, and there’s an interesting use of cutting off the heads within the frame that creates solid tension at times, but it once again left me craving another of the original trio. I keep hoping that Shyamalan would ditch the twists and just tells a cool, even Tarantino-like ‘badass’ story with those amazing techniques he once put on screen; when his characters were deep and interesting and they lived in a world that was shown to us in such creative ways. I’m not sure why he has to stick within such a confining genre. For some reason he forfeited atmosphere as he grew older in age when it was the one thing that was placing him amongst some of the best. I wonder what could have been. I’m keeping the faith that one day he’ll give us another Signs.
BELOW: Yet again I'm hearing that *this* will be his return to greatness (I've heard this for the last five films now - excluding Airbender). Admittedly, this does look pretty good, though I usually hear that every time as well.
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