M. Night Shyamalan has to be one of the most disappointing directors working today. Having made a tremendous trilogy of films with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs – films which still hold their own, even today – it’s as if the filmmaker has become a victim of his own success.
Knowing full well that audiences would be going to see his latest film with the expectation of a twist ending, Shyamalan has gladly obliged, but in the process forgot about actually making a decent film. Even when he’s tried to branch out and make more standard, blockbuster fare like After Earth, the only thing he’s really achieved is sucking all the charisma out of Will Smith.
Heralded by many as his comeback feature, his latest release, The Visit, is actually another crushing disappointment. It’s a shame because the concept at its centre – two young children spend a week with the grandparents they’ve never met before, only to find them acting very strange – is a strong one, that if handled correctly, could have proved to be something special.
The big mistake Shyamalan has made with this, is deciding to structure the story around the tired and irksome ‘found footage’ format. Not only does this style of flmmaking reek of Shyamalan’s desperation to be considered cool, contempary and ‘down with the kids’, but the story suffers as a result.
Whereas in the past, films of this kind have justified the use of this style by making it integral to the plot, it proves a distraction in The Visit as characters continue to film, when they should quite clearly either be running or defending themselves. It’s nonsensical and, frankly, lazy writing on Shyamalan’s part.
This is all before you take the film’s strange tone into account. The Visit seems to want to be both a comedy and a horror, but actually ends up being neither. A few well constructed jump scares aside, it isn’t scary, and attempts of deriving humour from the young children – especially the younger, ethnically confused brother – prove to be nothing short of excruciatingly annoying.
What’s worse, however, are the moments of sentimentality that fall completely flat; particularly a tagged on final sequence that should have been left on the cutting room floor. It’s as if Shyamalan is trying to prove he can still write emotionally driven thrillers, but by that point it’s all too little, too late.
Had Shyamalan put the found footage trope to one side and made the bold decision to shoot The Visit as a more conventional horror, it would have made for a much better film. As it stands, it’s just another run-of-the-mill scarers that we’ve become so accustomed too.
It lacks style, originality, wit and imagination. Shyamalan can do better and we deserve better.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com