Earlier this year I was treated to a surprisingly good STD ad called It Follows. Many people would suggest it was the greatest horror film in ages but I firmly disagree. While it was a wonderfully creepy movie and excellent allegory for Herpes, I wasn’t horrified by what I saw. I mean seriously, the characters didn’t even follow the rules!
Just had to get that out of my system since we didn’t have this site back in March. I digress. 2015 has been a fairly anemic year for horror films, I really believe it’s because they just haven’t made much money and unlike superhero films, you can’t just toss a huge action sequence at the audience and then watch as their brains drool out each ear. Nothing wrong with that as long as you stuff your mouth with enough popcorn, everything will be fine. You need more substance in a horror film and that’s becoming harder and harder to come by these days because our world is full of more real life horrors than any ghost story can muster.
I will say, October will give us a few options: Goosebumps (family horror, could be funny), Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (they’re done with these after this, right?), and of course Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (likely to be brilliant but sadly lacking in giant robots). I’d give Hollywood credit for releasing at least one actual horror film during this season, but as it’s their job to put out scary movies for Halloween, that’s like saying the Starbucks Barista just spelled your name correctly on your cup…after asking how to spell it.
That’s a lot of the reason why it surprised me when the second week of September debuted a found footage film about two kids meeting their grandparents for the first time. The Visit did not have a lot of marketing. In fact, I don’t believe it got into full swing until a few weeks ago. Most of us just saw the underwhelming trailers and the crocheted movie poster. Well, maybe it’s a stitched movie poster, but that’s not the point. Still, someone is going to correct me… I will applaud them for having the balls to actually list the director in both the trailer and the poster. Something the marketing department from his last movie forgot…
I know what you want to know. Did M. Night Shyamalan actually create a film that wasn’t ashamed of him? The answer is a definitive….sorta. What I will tell you is he set a creepy mood and let it grow over an hour and a half. To be quite honest, this film just seemed simple, even by the numbers. I believe that’s what was done well…nothing was overblown or took an extreme suspension of disbelief to enjoy. Every actor maintained their personas, no inconsistencies with how they reacted to the various jump scares and hard tension. The “monsters” of the film were eerie and more than a bit disturbing, but just enough doubt to keep things interesting. Everything just clicked.
Like I said, Shyamalan set the mood and let it crescendo to a disturbing finale. There are several things in the last 20 minutes of the film that I’ll have to rinse my dreams with a hefty dose of Sandra Bullock to forget, but I bet there are a lot of you who were looking for that. Or just want to dream of Sandra Bullock. That’s okay too.
It’s an odd day when you see a film, especially a creepy one, enjoy it, and while reviewing it, fail to find anything really wrong with the movie. Perhaps it was because I came in with low expectations and got a bit of substance, but there just wasn’t anything to hate here. Unfortunately the same can be said conversely: there wasn’t really anything that will have any staying power either.
M. Night has told some fantastic stories. Many of you still get chills while thinking of The Sixth Sense or Signs (if I never see a real cornfield, that’ll be fine with me), but have had your trust broken by almost anything else he’s done over the past fifteen years. I can tell you this film seems like his mea culpa. He desperately wants you to watch his films again, and if he has to go back to basics, he’ll do it. I really think that’s why this film worked. Shyamalan, you’ll be fine if you listen to me: “Go back to your roots, tell interesting stories before shoehorning a plot element where it doesn’t belong or attempting to shift any paradigms, oh, and don’t cast Jaden Smith in anything. AN-Y-THING.”
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
M. Night Shyamalan creeps every audience member out with tension that pops like an unexpected balloon explosion and will keep the hair on the back of your neck planted firmly in the “freaked out” position. If you’re in desperate need of a few scares, you’ll find them here and while you might lose a little sleep over The Visit, you’re ultimately going to forget it.