Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Kathryn Hahn, Peter McRobbie, Deanna Dunagan, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeLonge
M. Night Shyamalan has seen his career fall down a precipice greater than the one faced by the characters in the recently released ‘Everest’. From brilliant beginnings with ‘The Sixth Sense’, which earned six Oscar nominations, to the downright terrible, like ‘The Happening’, Shyamalan’s career has turned into, for want of a better word, a joke. As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to his latest offering one bit.
The story sees two kids visit their estranged grandparents, while their mother goes gallivanting off on a fun filled holiday. Soon, things start to become a little odd for the children, as their grandparents’ behaviour turns quite unusual. The weird antics of the grandparents, from aimlessly scratching the walls, to vomiting on the floor, is actually a great visual metaphor for how I felt about being in the company of two of the most irritating characters I have ever seen on screen. The film is framed as a documentary, filmed as a project from the point of view of the older sister, and her incessant babbling of filmmaking techniques is both aggravating and insulting. The younger brother on the other hand, does his best to alienate the audience by constantly rapping; a pastime he should quickly give up as it was unbelievably cringe worthy and raised serious questions about whether he had a speech impediment.
Let me be absolutely clear. I do not entirely blame the actors in this instance. The fault lies with the director, who seems obsessed with creating kooky, off the wall characters, who end up being nothing more than frustrating, anger-inducing people. I’ve had mosquito bites less irritating than these characters. I couldn’t care less what happened to them, and therefore any sense of dread is lost amongst the overwhelming annoyance I experienced.
The film is pitched as a horror-comedy, probably in the same way ‘Drag Me To Hell’ was. But unlike Sam Raimi’s underrated film, ‘The Visit’ is neither frightening nor funny. It is a film that reeks of self indulgence, which is completely baffling considering most of Shyamalan’s output. The film felt like a giant middle finger to the audience; a gesture I would more than happily reciprocate given the chance. The film runs at 94 minutes, which under more pleasant circumstances would be a comfortable running time, but in this case feels like a long, old slog. The familiar techniques of inciting scares are here in abundance, with absolutely no evidence of whit or intelligence on show. This is a film that appears to have been made by someone with a camera in one hand, and a copy of ‘Filmmaking For Dummies’ in the other.
What happened to M. Night Shyamalan? While ‘The Sixth Sense’ wasn’t perfect, it had a real flair and atmosphere to it. His subsequent films were both good, but since then I have yet to see a Shyamalan film that is anything better than awful. I have not seen ‘Lady In The Water’ or ‘The Last Airbender’, although reviews for these films suggest I should be thankful of that. How Shyamalan keeps getting funded for his movies is beyond comprehension. Having said that, this film had a budget of $5million, which when compared to his previous venture, ‘After Earth’, is a fraction of what he usually has at his disposal.
Maybe the tide is turning. Perhaps Hollywood is waking up to the fact that Shyamalan’s record is skipping. I believe he has one, maybe two more chances at redemption left, but on this evidence, Shyamalan’s star has officially died, forming a massive black hole which sucks all the life, fun and enjoyment out of a trip to the cinema. I cannot give this film a zero – it isn’t ‘Movie 43’ bad – but of all the terrible films I have seen this year, ‘The Visit’ is definitely leading the pack.