What I'm Watching: The Visit
Welcome back! It's been a quiet month of movies, but I finally got one I had to skip in the theatres because of reasons, and can finally bring you my thoughts on The Visit.
Now, first some background. I *like* M. Night Shyamalan, or I did, and I will still go to bat for the guy, and give him the benefit of the doubt. I know a lot of people like to joke about him now (Heck, so do I), and deride his movies before they've even come out, but I will always give the guy at least a chance.
I really enjoyed the Sixth Sense (Even though the instant I knew there WAS a twist, I was able to suss it out immediately). Unbreakable is one of my all-time favourite movies. I know a lot of people mock Signs, but I'll still go to bat for that movie. I even quite liked The Village, even though by that point we all knew M. Night's gimmick and knew where this was going from the word go. I still think it unfolded nicely and worked for its themes. I somehow managed to never see Lady in the Water, and I never saw the Last Airbender movie, because even *I* could smell the stink coming off that pig like it was bacon. But I think a lot of the problems there come more from being a big studio (attempt at a) franchise, with a lot of fingers in the pie, and less M. Night's fault.
Around the time of The Village is when people stopped caring about the *story* being told, and only cared about the twist. This goes for Shyamalan himself, sadly. He became victim of falling for his own hype, and the stories were more focused on a twist and backfilling a story, instead of something more organic. Fortunately, SOMEthing happened, maybe it was the dismal response to Airbender, or he took a look back and had a revelation all on its own, but recently he has been having a bit of a creative rebirth. Wayward Pines on FOX was a *great* little series, and I could see the creator I loved so long ago peeking out again.
And that brings us to today, that brings us to The Visit.
The Visit is about two kids whose mother left home under somewhat unspoken circumstances before they were born, but it's made clear that it was not pretty. The grandparents have finally gotten back in contact, and want to meet their grandkids. Which works out great for the mother, who wants to go on a vacation cruise with her new boyfriend. So the kids get packed up and sent off to found footage land, with the daughter Becca as an aspiring filmmaker and making a documentary of her week with Nana and Pop Pop, and her family's story, particularly the falling out with mom.
While they're their, things start to get...weird. But for the most part, the kids brush it off as well, old people are weird. And they're not wrong, but it quickly becomes apparent that the weirdness goes beyond even that, with Tyler being the first to say that no, no, this is way more than sundowning.
This is a super simple story, and is quite honestly, a good way for M. Knight to get back to just telling good stories. This movie requires atmosphere, and good direction to establish that, as well as handle the visuals. There's nothing supernatural, there's nothing too complex. But you have to deliver on the storytelling and characters, because that's what this is all about.
And it works, it really does. I very much enjoyed this. M. Knight Shyamalan, at his core, IS a great director. Even his utter dross at least had style and competency in the filmmaking. Which arguably is why some of them are so frustrating. You can tell they're well made movies, just not good *stories*.
The cast is solid, made up of largely unknown people. Which is what I always like in found footage movies. Something about casting people you know really well just breaks the illusion that is largely the point of the movie. Yeah, I'm still looking at you, Digging Up the Marrow.
My biggest problem is the brother, Tyler. He's a wannabe rapper, and his rapping is...you know that feeling you get of second hand embarrassment when a character is doing something and you just want it to stop, so you can come out of hiding behind your hands? Yeah, that's what it was like watching Tyler rap. Which is less about his *skill* or the *lyrics* or anything, but just about the awkwardness of it. And there's a certain *truth* in that, at the same time you're going, "Stooop."
The grandparents are effectively creepy when they need to be, and spot on charming all the other times. You get why they'd be good people, charming to people, and also why a kid might run away from home from overbearing parents. And the movie plays that line of whether or not they're just being old-person-weird or oh shit we're in danger weird perfectly. You can empathise with the kids, worried about their grandparents mental and physical health, and trying to help their mom out by patching things up.
The pace moves along nicely, and things get weirder and creepier at a steady pace, never leaving you waiting for too long, and even dropping in moments of creepiness and odd behaviour during the day.
It all builds up to a wonderful conclusion, with a great twist that works very well with what we've been watching, and the reveal drop is done perfectly.
The Visit is a fun, fun movie. It's a solid thriller from beginning to end, with only a few minor bumps along the way. This is M. Night back in form, albeit on a smaller, simpler, movie. But the thing is, that all comes together and it *WORKS*. Hopefully he can do something bigger next time, a little more complex, and show people why he was once an up and coming star.
If you can handle a white kid trying to rap here and there, this is a definite recommendation. Don't be scared off by Shyamalan's involvement, and instead remember the good times, because...and here's the twist...they're back again.
This is doubly important, because I see a lot of people scoffing at the news of him helping to bring back Tales from the Crypt. Based largely on his few flops, and people need to remember that the M. Night of old is PERFECT for that sort of format. So here I am, going to bat for him once more...