By Evan Purcell
2/22/2016, 8:00 p.m.
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Most of the world wrote off M. Night Shyamalan after the epic flameout that was The Happening, a suspense thriller full of so many bad decisions, it almost seemed like a prank against the audience. Its premise was ridiculous, its climax laughable, and its tone jarringly somber. It was a bad, bad movie, and it made all his previous movies – which all had similar elements – look bad in comparison.
For his next few films, it seemed like Shyamalan learned his lesson from The Happening, but not in a good way. After Earth and The Last Airbender were both generic wannabe blockbusters that could’ve been directed by anyone. Unlike all his previous films, they weren’t recognizably his. And that was disappointing.
With the release of The Visit, Shyamalan is back to his old tricks again, and while it’s no Sixth Sense, it is at least as good as Signs or The Village.
The Visit follows two modern kids – a precocious rapper and an aspiring filmmaker, both slightly overwritten – as they meet their estranged grandparents for the very first time. Right away, the grandparents seem a little off. They hide things in the shed, they take hide and seek a little too far, and they say things that don’t quite jibe with reality. At first it seems like they’re senile, but then things get darker.
To say anything else would spoil the slowly building weirdness of this found footage horror comedy creepshow. But I will say that you should not expect a big twist ending in the final minutes. Instead, Shyamalan wisely reveals the reality of the situation much earlier, which gives him the freedom to make The Visit‘s final 30 minutes some of the tensest, weirdest stuff in any of his films.
As a movie fan, it’s always disheartening when a skilled filmmaker loses his way, either repeating his own quirks into self-parody or losing all sense of personality. Shyamalan went through both of those phases, and with the welcome arrival of The Visit, let’s hope that the old Shyamalan is here to stay.