By James Hancock September 11th, 2015
Only M. Night Shyamalan could make a movie as lousy as The Visit and have it be described in glowing terms by critics as ‘a comeback’. Apart from slumber parties for young children, I don’t think there is an audience alive that can call the The Visit a horror movie and keep a straight face. My screening did have a group of young girls in attendance who squealed in delight like a bachelorette party at a comedy club trying to ruin the show, but that was the only positive, if you can call it that, from my 94 minutes of teeth-grinding frustration at the theater. At this point I think it is safe to say that Shyamalan is the worst director ever to make a very good living in Hollywood. I gave up on Shyamalan a long time ago and unlike his defenders I will not even concede that The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) are worth watching. Those were the last 3 films of his that I saw until recently and over the last ten years I have quietly enjoyed watching the rest of the world develop the same opinion of Shyamalan that I have as they sat through and then recoiled from The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013). I have frequently heard boos from rowdy crowds when his name pops up during trailers, a phenomenon that I think is exclusive to his work. Consequently, his name was removed from most of the marketing for After Earth. But in my preparation for an upcoming episode of Wrong Reel, I decided finally to work my way through Shyamalan’s filmography in order to have a more informed opinion of his career. Now fully up to speed on his work, I feel I have been way too easy on him. I can understand how some folks get into the initial films that made him a household name, but from The Village through The Visit, Shyamalan has put together the worst ten years of filmmaking ever achieved by a human being. I don’t blame Shyamalan. I’m sure he’s having a blast churning out movies every other year. The fact that his filmography exists to torment me is entirely our fault for continuing to throw down money in support what I regard as the cinematic equivalent of a director regularly taking a giant shit right into our eager and wide open mouths.
So you might be asking how The Visit stacks up against the rest of Shyamalan’s films. The Visit is nowhere near as unwatchable as The Last Airbender or After Earth, but on the other hand is not remotely as enjoyable as The Sixth Sense. While I might think that The Sixth Sense is an overrated movie that falls to pieces with a second viewing, at least the movie scared me when I first saw it in the theater to the extent where I actually yelled out loud at one point. The Visit, however, is another unintentionally funny movie on the level of The Happening. The plot is simple. Two teenagers go to stay with their grandparents for a week and decide to make a documentary about the experience hoping to find some way to reconcile the differences between their mother and her estranged parents. From the moment they arrive, the grandparents behave a little strangely and before long their antics escalate into dangerous territory. While the screaming little girls in my audience seemed genuinely unnerved by the movie, the rest of the audience routinely laughed at the ridiculous gags that were clearly supposed to keep us on our toes. The central characters played by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are so intensely unlikable that I kept praying for something terrible to happen to them. ***spoiler alert*** The fact that the worst thing that befalls them is a dirty diaper in the face was almost too punishing to bear. If you’ve seen the trailer you know what to expect and have already seen the majority of the decent beats in the movie. The only thing preventing me from indulging in a murderous rampage is the fact that today I also saw a phenomenal horror film from Austria called Goodnight Mommy, a film that had me in a rapturous state of awe as I was watching it. As far as M. Night Shyamalan is concerned, he will likely continue making unconscionably stupid movies for the next few decades. His success is a mystery to me but I will just learn to cope with it and after recording tomorrow’s episode of Wrong Reel, I will happily go back into voluntary retirement from ever watching his movies again.
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