Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3 Short Paragraphs: The Visit

2015, M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) -- download

Shyamalan gets a bad rap these days. With disappointing followups to The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, people got on his case about every movie requiring a reveal. I considered myself an apologist and big fan, believing he could shed the memories of twists & reveals and do what he does best -- cinematic direction in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock. Yes, I went there. And then he went with The Last Airbender. Not only did he bastardize a very popular animated show but it was rather terrible. Money, producer meddling, bad script, etc. All can be blamed but he shoulders the burden. The following After Earth, was more a Will Smith production than anything and abandoned everything that was Shyamalan, but for close up shots with long stretches of dialogue. I recently rewatched; it is still not a very good movie.

Meanwhile The Visit is a great suspense thriller! This is Shyamalan sliding in beside the current horror resurgence I have mentioned a few times, where they abandon most of the current tropes, reaching for design choices and understated plotting stylized in the 70s. There is nothing sweeping or epic in The Visit -- it is a quiet, chilling focused movie. Becca and Tyler are sent by their single mother to get to know their grandparents, from whom she ran away in her teens. There is baggage, the kind that their mother cannot easily dispense with. It is necessary baggage, so we have context in which to place the parents. Instant unease.

Oh the unease. From almost the get-go, the kids are weirded out by their grandparents. They are nice enough folks, if a bit back woods, but it is.... the back woods. The kids are trying to make do, but things get weirder and weirder and then downright eerie. There is an immense strength exhibited by the kids as they deal with situations few would, all for the sake of their mother, her history and potential reconciliation. Everything about the movie is figuring out what the fuck is going on and where it will take the kids. Not a Shyamalan reveal, for any horror movie watcher can guess the ending, but it's the details and the road we take to get there that makes this movie so grand. Great horror movies always leave with a sense of distrust of misty woods, old houses, quiet country roads, cabins in the woods, etc. This might leave you looking oddly at your rural living grandparents next time you visit.