Despite creating some of the most iconic stories of a generation, audiences around the world have really turned against M. Night Shyamalan. Just say the name quietly to yourself. Shyamalan. Think about how that word immediately makes you feel. Now think about the first time you finished watching The Sixth Sense. Or watching Samuel L. Jackson fall down those stairs in Unbreakable. Are you feeling contrasting emotions? For a time, at the turn of the century, M. Night Shyamalan was America’s cinematic darling. It was only after he failed to exceed the high bar he had set for himself that the general public made him the object of extreme criticism. However, in a twist not quite as remarkable as the ones he’s known for, Shymalan’s critics may soon be eating their words after the premiere weekend of his latest film, The Visit.
The film, shot in found footage style, follows the viewpoint of brother and sister Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) Jamison. When their mother, Paula, (Kathryn Hahn) takes a trip with her new boyfriend, she sees it as a perfect opportunity to send the kids to meet their estranged, maternal grandparents. Tyler and Rebecca’s father was Paula’s high-school teacher, and Paula hasn’t seen her parents since an argument prompted her to run off with the older man. Upon first meeting their grandparents, John (Peter McRobbie) and Doris (Deanna Dunagan), the kids find them warm and inviting, but are soon puzzled by the couple’s strange behavior and bizarre rules. After trying to unravel the events that lead to the falling out between their mother and grandparents, Tyler and Rebecca begin to suspect that there is something seriously wrong with the senior citizens.
The Visit marks the second indication that Shyamalan is returning to his former glory. His foray into television with the Fox miniseries Wayward Pines was a hit with audiences this summer, and lacked the overcomplicated, overreaching clutter that plagued Shyamalan’s past few films. Critics are saying the same of The Visit. There are a few of the director’s trademark techniques that are recognizable in the film, but are utilized with far more simplicity and grace than, say, Lady in the Water. There are some funny/cheesy parts of the film, but they are embraced for what they are instead of being used to try and elevate the story. In turn, the movie becomes a sort of horror-comedy, instead of the laughable horror and thrills that have made their way into some of the director’s other projects. In true Shyamalanian fashion, there’s also a twist towards the end; however, the big secret is so plausible and sensible that it only adds to the realism and creepiness of the plot. You’ll also find some trademark techniques of co-producer Jason Blum, who has produced horror movies like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and The Lords of Salem.
If you were ever going to see another Shyamalan movie again, The Visit would definitely be the place to start. However, looking at Shyamalan’s future projects, it might not be the place to end. The popularity of The Visit has given promise to the director’s hush-hush movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, as well as the recently announced romantic mystery, Labor of Love, starring Bruce Willis. For now, find showtimes and tickets for The Visit right here.