Unfortunately, Shyamalan has had a very difficult time repeating the success of "The Sixth Sense." His first follow-up was "Unbreakable," also with Willis, which was decent, yet nowhere near as good as "Sense," resulting in being classified as somewhat of a disappointment. I found his next film, "Signs," to be terrific, and I actually was frightened by its slow build-up and suspenseful moments (the fact that I was on a camping trip at the time and a huge storm came the night I saw it might have contributed to it as well). It was "The Village" where Shyamalan started to really stumble. When the trailers came out, "The Village" was advertised as a scary movie, a story of a town terrorized by a monster which resulted in them never being able to leave. The finished product was the total opposite of what it appeared to be from the trailers, which resulted in much backlash and hate towards the film (I despised it the first time I saw it and made fun of it any chance I could get). When you watch the movie for what it actually is, it turns out that it really isn't too abysmal and is actually quite decent. It seemed that Shyamalan could not have a hit or well-received movie since. "Lady in the Water" was actually not too bad, but audiences were not interested, resulting in it being a box office flop. 2008's "The Happening" was an absolute disaster, a real joke of a film, unintentionally funny, and not creepy at all. From this point on, Shyamalan appeared to be done.
When I saw "Unfriended" back in April, the preview for "The Visit" was attached. Here was a film that took a simple, innocent, joyous occasion such as time with grandparents and turned it into something frightening and shocking. I was very intrigued by it, even though I had pretty much lost faith in Shyamalan. I later found it was being billed as a "horror comedy," which honestly concerned me a little bit. I thought we were going to get some overly cheesy film that ended up being too silly and stupid to produce any chills. I thought it was going to maybe be "The Happening" all over again. With all of that, I still wanted to see it. I am a sucker for any horror movie that looks decent. The final product is Shyamalan's best since "Signs" in my personal opinion.
The film is presented in found footage style, and as it begins, we meet Becca (Oliva DeJonge), Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), and their mother (Kathryn Hahn). Tyler and Becca are to meet their grandparents for the first time and stay with them for a week while mom goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend. Mom has not spoken to her parents ever since she left in her early teen years, which is why the kids have never met them. When they first arrive, their grandparents (played very creepily by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) seem to just have some typical characteristics of people who are older. Each night, however, something odd frequently happens with the grandma, and there is something a bit creepy about the grandfather and the shed behind the house. As the week progresses, the kids start becoming more uneasy with their grandparents, who just seem to become stranger and stranger.
There's actually a strong twist at the end, but I will not spoil the fun. I will say that I did not see it coming, although when I end up watching it again, it will become apparent, kind of like with "The Sixth Sense" (there is still no ending quite as surprising as that one).
I am a fan of found footage films done right. I know many people have tired of this genre, but I still find it to be a unique type of filmmaking. With "The Visit," M. Night Shyamalan uses the technique to create many eerie moments filled with suspense that builds up slowly. I would love to see how he would have made the "Paranormal Activity" films.
Successfully (and intentionally) blending humor and chills, "The Visit" is a terrific choice for the Halloween season. Let's hope the film continues to do well at the box office so people can enjoy the theater-going experience for this film. Welcome back, M.