Sunday 7 February 2016

The Visit

M. Night Shyamalan has been on a downward spiral for years. After starting his career proper with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, things were looking good. Then came Signs and The Village – not offensively bad, but not great either. And then everything went tits up. Films like The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth followed. The world was not impressed. But then, hope flickered. Shyamalan directed the first episode of TV’s Wayward Pines and executively produced the series, which looked like maybe ol’ M. Night was on his way back. Then he brought us The Visit. Oh dear…

Out now on DVD & Blu-ray, The Visit is another jewel in M. Night’s crown – that is, if he is The Shit King and the jewels on his crown are pieces of faeces. The film is an extremely unoriginal found-footage tale about two unlikeable young kids spending a week with a pair of old nutters who claim to be their grandparents. Things gets weird, jump scares happen, it ends. The closing credits remind you this was ‘directed by M. Night Shyamalan’ and you’ll find it hard to believe. Yes, M. Night has made a lot of bad films recently but this has none of the hallmarks of a Shyamalan film, be it a bad one or otherwise. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to go into a film completely blind, stop reading now. Mild spoilers lie ahead...

So what makes this film feel so un-Shyamalan? Firstly, the film has no supernatural element. At all. Shyamalan is known for this, with films like The Sixth Sense and Lady in the Water but there’s nothing here to continue this trend. Secondly, it has no cameo from Shyamalan but that’s a blessing – somebody must’ve finally told him he can’t act. Thirdly, there’s no big twist. Sorry folks, there just isn’t. What little twist there is here I predicted within the first 10 minutes. No, The Visit is just a painfully ordinary run-of-the-mill found-footage horror which could’ve been made by anyone. Think Paranormal Activity without the Paranormal.

We spend almost the entire film at ‘Nana’ and ‘Pop Pop’s house with our two young heroes, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie put in decent performances as the mad old folks but DeJonge and Oxenbould are quite astoundingly bad as the youngsters. It’s hard to tell if this is down to their talent (or lack thereof), or Shyamalan’s dreadful screenplay. He makes these kids the most irritating and unlikeable protagonists I’ve seen in years, and when the old folks started getting more aggressive I was rooting for them! The found-footage format is built around the fact these kids are making a documentary about their mother’s childhood home and her parents, so get ready for a lot of talking to the camera about shit we do not care about. We’re here to see mad old people projectile vomit and chase children around. We’re certainly not here to watch obnoxious children address the camera with boring stories about their mum who they are far too obsessed with or their dad who ran away when they were young.

M. Night Shyamalan claims this is a ‘comedy horror’. But I get the impression he says that in the same way Tommy Wiseau says The Room is intentionally a comedy. It isn’t. It’s just so laughably bad that his only excuse is “well, it was supposed to be funny”. Even the film’s official poster makes no mention of this ‘comedy’ angle, and labels it ‘an original thriller’. Still, a box office of $97.1mil against a miniscule $5mil budget shows that people still eat this up. Critically, The Visit had rather mixed reviews and it would appear I am in a minority, along with Mark Kermode, who absolutely hated it. But I stand by that. It’s just bloody rubbish.

The Visit’s afore-mentioned poster has ‘Grandma’s Rules’ as the main focal point, the first of which is ‘have a great time’. You won’t have a great time with this load of old bollocks. It’s predictable, unoriginal nonsense with two of the worst young leads I’ve seen in years and another piece of cinematic evidence that the found-footage genre is done. Probably not the worst film in Shyamalan’s filmography, but certainly the most forgettable.

There is a scene in The Visit where a mad old man rubs his shit in an innocent little boy’s face. It feels like that’s what M. Night Shyamalan is doing to us with this film. 1/5.


Sam Love

The Visit at CeX

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