Ladies and gentlemen, M. Night Shyamalan is back! Oh yes, the man who brought us movies like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable is back to winning form, far removed from his recent horrendous movies that include the likes of The Last Airbender, The Village, After Earth, and The Happening. Shyamalan has brought us the type of horror movie that we expect from someone of his caliber of filmmaking.
Sadly, Shyamalan is one of those guys who has become somewhat of a joke in recent years with his laundry of terrible movies that stray from any sense of reality into the realms of just… What the fuck? I, myself, have been left time and time again scratching my head after watching a Shyamalan movie or at the worst, laughing my ass off at the unintentional comedy that they can bring. But I can safely say after watching The Visit that Shyamalan not only took the criticism dealt at him, but used it to fuel his fires, and make a low-budget movie that will keep you laughing and screaming every step of the way.
After fifteen years estranged from her parents due to eloping with her substitute high school English teacher, Paula Jamison (Kathryn Hahn) decides to send her two kids to visit their grandparents for a week while she goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend, Miguel. Her daughter Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) is an aspiring (and hilariously pretentious) film maker who decides to make a documentary about the events that lead to Paula’s estrangement.
Her and her brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) travel by train for the visit to meet John and Doris Jamison (Deanna Dunagen & Paul McRobbie). Upon meeting them, Tyler and Rebecca can tell that there is something a little off about the elderly couple, but they can’t quite put their finger on it. Over the course of the next couple of days, Rebecca and Tyler learn that their grandparents are suffering from various levels of dementia which include Sundowners, increased paranoia, incontinence, and so forth. The kids become more disturbed when they sneak out of their room after 9:30 PM to see their grandmother either running around the house on all fours, projectile vomiting, or naked and scratching at the walls. As the week continues, they continue to grow more and more strange until Rebecca and Tyler begin to become fearful of their mere presence.
The Acting and The Characters
Across the board, everyone in this movie deserve massive praise for their performances. There is not a weak link in this chain! Each character plays their role to perfection and I never once felt removed from the movie or felt that these actors were simply playing characters, all of them felt organic and by all accounts real.
Olivia DeJong, by all accounts, feels like an aspiring teenage filmmaker. She has this level of ambition about her, but also a highly pretentious attitude that you would expect from a fifteen year old attempting to make a documentary. With scenes that includes Rebecca asking her brother not to touch the swing her mom played on because she wants it to ‘move organically’, not wanting to sully her ‘cinematic integrity’ with hidden cameras, and attempting to generate the desired emotional responses for her film, Rebecca feels like the type of teenager you would make a documentary like this. But that doesn’t mean Rebecca is a terrible person or a terrible character, her whole purpose for creating the film is to help her mom cope forgive her parents for the altercation that lead to her running away from home. Olivia DeJong plays the character to perfection.
While Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, and Paul McRobbie also do an excellent job in their performances, the true gem of this movie is Deanna Dunagen who plays Tyler and Rebecca’s grandmother Doris. While John Jamison comes across as your standard grandfather with some aspects of dementia, Doris Jamison is a character that is both hilarious and creepy in ways that you can’t quite put your finger on. Scenes in which she is seen dementedly crawling under the porch after the kids who are playing hide’n’seek and moments where she is naked and scratching on the walls outside the kids room is made all the more impactful when she is seen commending Tyler on his rapping or making cookies for the kids. Shyamalan plays off the fears of viewer by keeping Doris’s actions so erratic. Moments in which Doris asks Rebecca to climb into the oven to clean it should not be terrifying, but with her previous actions, becomes some of the most intense scenes in the entire movie all of which made possible by Deanna Dunagen’s sweetly terrifying performance.
Even the small characters like the guy on the train who begins to quote Shakespeare at the camera or the former junkie who is looking to thank Rebecca and Tyler’s grandparents for helping them are phenomenal in their performances. On all aspects, the characters and the acting are a treat to watch.
The Best Damn Found Footage Movie to Exist
For anyone who has been following my website over the years or knows me personally, you know that I am not a fan of found footage movies. Just look at my reviews of Unfriended and The Gallows as proof that I think the genre is a steaming pile of horse shit. I find them to typically be lazy film making and a way to excuse amateur directors from the criticism of piss poor cinematography. When you combine them with asinine reasons as to why people are recording these events except for the reason that if they didn’t then there wouldn’t be a movie, it makes for a shit genre of film making.
For years, I was under the assumption that making a good found footage movie was impossible. But I’ll be damned, Shyamalan proved me wrong! It is completely plausible why Rebecca and Tyler are recording the entire events of this movie. Even when shit gets real, I was never questioning why the camera is still in their hands.
The cinematography is also amazing! There is very little unnecessary shaky cam that makes the audience queasy, the events are recorded with excellent cameras so there is no glaring plot holes on the quality of the camera being used, and any time the camera is dropped, it feels plausible, and organic. If this were an actual documentary, I would give it massive praise on the part of these two poor kids.
M. Night Shymalan Returns to His Roots
I have a theory when it comes to Shyamalan and his film making. The way I see it, Shyamalan is at his best when the expectations from him are low. First starting out, Shyamalan made incredible movies like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. These two movies are easily some of the best movies ever made and it is what put the director on the map. But then… Shit started to roll down hill. I personally think that the weight of his success and the demand to always shock the audience like he did in The Sixth Sense did affect his film making. Instead of making solid movies, Shyamalan is pressured to keep shocking the audience with excellent terror, suspense, and swerves that make the audience’s jaws collectively drop to the floor. All of this, of course culminating to the disasters that were The Last Airbender and After Earth.
But now, after the pressure is off Shyamalan to make these grandiose movies, Shyamalan can return to his roots and make small, but thought provoking movies that do not have to rely on an outlandish twist to make the movie memorable. There is a twist in this movie, but it is an expected twist, and one that does not detract from the movie and the message being presented. Shayamalan blends the concepts of horror, comedy, and plays off the fear of the elderly and the introspective fear that we may end up as demented as the elderly couple in this movie to keep the audience’s emotions a mixed bag of hysterical laughter and absolute terror.
This is the kind of movie that is in Shyamalan’s comfort zone and ultimately this may prove to be the turning point in Shyamalan’s career where we see a true resurgence for the director.
If you know anyone who has dementia or one of your family members is suffering from some of the problems these elderly people face, you may not want to see this movie. This movie paints a very real picture of people who are suffering from dementia and it does so in a way that is very hard to watch. There are multiple scenes in this movie in which John Jamison is dressing for a train ride to a company ball and the kids have to explain to him that his mind is wandering. There are other moments that involve John attacking a person because he thinks that he is following them and the accurate portrayal of Sundowners Syndrome can cause an uneasy feeling for anyone who has had a relative suffer through these ailments.
Some of you may be asking why this is a con? It is an accurate portrayal of certain ailments, film making is a reflection of our world… Well because this is something that can actively deter people from seeing the movie. With the way it is presented and the context of the movie, it is something that will either terrify or keep people from actively wanting to see this film. It is a minor con to be sure, but it is still there.
If you get a chance to see this movie, do so! Do not let the Shyamalan name scare you away. I promise that you will get The Sixth Sense quality of movie making from this one. The acting, the characters, the style, and the blend of horror and comedy make this one of the best movies of the year.
If this is the type of movie that Shyamalan is going to be making, than I am truly looking forward to what the future holds. The film director that captivated us all those years ago has returned and in full force!
Final Score 4.5/5
Thank you for reading and please like and subscribe for more from me. Coming up on Tuesday is my review of the new Owen Wilson movie, No Escape.