All right you all know how any review of an M. Night Shyamalan movie starts so I am going to try and tone it down for this one. Yes his movies have continuously gone downhill since 'The Sixth Sense' and for my money he has not made a good film since 'Unbreakable'. However the buzz going around the movie-sphere is that 'The Visit' is a somewhat return to form for him so in this review we are going to find out whether or not I believe that to be true.

The thing with found-footage movies is that no matter how good the movie is, I will still not be able to get over that and after all these years of seeing them getting released, I have yet to see one were I did not ask "why the hell would you keep filming?". It is quite the hurdle for movies like this to overcome and I do not think any of them can really pull it off and while 'The Visit' gives it a fair shot, it does not succeed as well as I was hoping it would. The questions you have to ask while making a found-footage movie (well really the only question should be "why?") is "how are they filming this?" and the second question is "why are they filming this?" and then the third question is "when shit ultimately goes down, why are they STILL filming this?". 'The Visit' does a fair job in explaining the first two but just like pretty much every other found-footage film ever made... the third question remains untouched. I can believe them leaving the camera on because they would probably not want to take time away from running in utter fear but why the would position the camera where the action is, is just never justified in a reasonable manner other than... it is a movie trying to pose as found-footage.

I will give the movie a lot of credit though because for once, M. Night actually comes across like he is trying. There are lots of creative moments for both the characters and the story with some clever dialogue and some well handled cuts. The problem of course with the latter is that this is a found-footage movies and there is no reason to edit the footage like a movie. I get that the girl was trying to be a pretentious filmmaker but what does not work is that the film opens with actual opening credits. We have it all here, "Directed by M. Night Shyamalan", "written by M. Night Shyamalan" etc, which IMMEDIATELY take away the believability of it all. Of course we all know this is not real but if you are not even going to try... why make it a found-footage movie? Simply put, the genre is inherently broken and 'The Visit' is not the movie to fix it (although it is not really something that CAN be fixed).

The strongest aspect of the movie though is actually the acting. If there was something that could pass the movie of as found-footage it would be that all the actors actually did come across as real people. You truly believe that the boy and the girl ARE brother and sister. If this movie had worse actors in the lead roles this movie would have been a whole lot worse and if it was not for the dialogue I doubt this would have been any different from M. Night's other recent outputs in the horror genre. I also have to give credit to the actors playing the grandparents because if there was anything in the movie that would have come close to creeping me out - it would be them. Sure none of these actors are going to be up for an academy award any time soon but this is definitely M. Night's best cast in many years and it is good that he was at least aware that he had to cast relatively unknown actors in these roles in order for this found-footage movie to get off the ground on even the most superficial level.

What really drove me nuts is the picture quality of these cameras because we are being shown countless times that this is being recorded by a standard DSLR camera and yet it very clearly looks like an actual movie (because of course it is not ACTUALLY being shot with those cameras). It adds to the pile of reasons why this movie had no business in being a found-footage movie because the actual camera the shot the film with is really good and the lighting is good so they could have easily shot this as a real movie using these exact same equipment. But what we got is yet another example of why this movie does not work as found-footage. Even the sound is way too good for a DSLR camera because there are times when the characters would just put the camera down while recording (as you do) and walk away from it. The sound quality when they are talking in these moments is way too clear to be believeable.

Naturally seeing as this was an M. Night Shyamalan movie, a twist was expected and I was quite disappointed to learn that it was one that I saw coming after about 20 minutes into the film (no I will not spoil what it is). This does not take away from the fact that it is a good twist, but there were just too many not-so-subtle hints pointing in that direction (even including someone looking right into the camera as the script tries to give us hints in an organic way). Yes of course you have to give the audience something to chew on as they re-watch the film trying to find clues but these were just too obvious and knowing M. Night's trackrecord you immediately know that a twist is coming which admittedly is kind of a tricky spot to be in. I could actually feel that he was somewhat aware of the position he was in because I could also see some tricks being pulled to try and move the audience in another direction and then pull the rug from underneath and reveal a twist that is much more simple. The problem of course was that the foundation for the actual twist was right in our faces and everything leading up to the reveal kept supporting it.

People are talking about how this is a horror-comedy film and while I could definitely see elements of both genres, there was nothing in the film that scared me and there was nothing in the film that made me laugh. Now, this does not mean I did not enjoy it - in fact one of the movie's strengths in my opinion is that it is never dull. It just means that I was never on the edge of my seat because I of course already knew where the film was going and there was never really enough comedic moments to earn as much as a chuckle for me. The kid rapping just made my ears bleed (that was the real horror of the film) and the final 20 minutes just had me saying "I know exactly what is going to happen... and now it has happened".

To get more positives out there before I wrap up. This is definitely M. Night Shyamalan's best script in a very long time. Things are set up and then payed off, there is some actual dramatic heft going on, the movie is about something deeper than just "Kids visit grandparents. Grandparents are creepy" and the dialogue - while sometimes on the nose, is quite good. The writing for the children is especially good because if there is one thing that always seem to fail in movies/TV-shows starring children - it is the children are not acting like children because the writer clearly failed to understand what kids are like. To his credit, these are some of the most believeable child characters I have seen since 'Inside Out' (and NO I am not comparing 'The Visit' to 'Inside Out' people, calm down). So while a lot of the set ups are quite obvious - at least they are there. At least a lot of what is happening in the film serve a purpose as opposed to just stretching out the running time. If M. Night continous like this, I will happily say he has returned to form (his next movie called 'Labor of Love' is actually starring Bruce Willis again so lets see if that combination can bring back the glory days even further).

Overall, 'The Visit' is a decent movie - which on the M. Night Shyamalan grading scale is really damn good. I was never bored while watching it, the actors are all great, the script is the best he has written in over a decade and the dramatic heft has to be commended because this could easily have been just another forgettable found-footage film. However this movie still fails as a found-footage film on many unforgivable levels, the twist is too predictable for its own good and it never really rises above being just semi-enjoyable. It is not a movie I would ever watch again but it is most definitely a step in the right direction for Shyamalan.


- Lucas


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