Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Visit will creep you out and make you laugh at the same time


Rating:  PG-13, 1 hour 34 minutes

Grade:  B+

In a Nutshell:    I generally don’t like scary movies, but I’ve been rooting for M. Night Shyamalan to return to his film-making greatness of former years.  I loved Signs and The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and The Village . The good news is that this film assures me he is going to get there.   His reputation became so tainted that his name was hidden on his most recent film After Earth .

One of the best things going for it is a clever sense of humor, and its revealing insights into good film-making that the two kid characters discuss as they’re making their own documentary of the terrifying events that unfold during their visit to “Nana” and Pop Pop’s” house.  You’ll laugh and be creeped out at the same time.

The Visit brought in about $25.7 million, which has made it the top opening film in the horror genre of 2015.  That’s an especially impressive feat, considering M. Night Shyamalan decided to skip Hollywood backers and fund the entire project on his own.  Good on you, M. Night.   (In case you’re wondering, his real name is Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan.  “Night” was a name he made up in college.)

Uplifting Theme:
·       “You have to laugh to keep the deep darkies in a cave.” – Nana   (Deanna Dunagan)
·         Forgiveness is a powerful elixir.
·        “Don’t hold on to anger.” – the mom  (Kathryn Hahn)

Things I liked:
·         M. Night Shyamalan is a master at visual tension.  Becca explains it as “things that force us to imagine what’s outside the screen.” 
·         Great casting.  The kids actually look like siblings.  The adorable Ed Oxenbould from Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DVD) and newcomer Olivia DeJonge aren’t related in real life, but they’re both outstanding in their roles.
·         One of the funniest running gags in the movie is when Tyler announces “I’ve decided to use female pop singers’ names instead of swearing.  For example, if I stub my toe, I’d say ‘Shakira!’”  It’s especially funny when, during a particularly tense moment, you hear him utter “Katy Perry!” 
·         You know you have a good scary movie when audiences shout protective advice to the characters on the screen, like “No!  Don’t go in there!”
·         M. Night Shyamalan seems to almost be poking fun at himself through the voice of Becca and her pretentious film-making insights.  In fact, a character spews a line that reveals the director’s attitude:  “No one gives a crap about cinematic standards.  It’s not the 1800’s.  Have you seen reality TV?”

Things I didn’t like:
·         If you don’t like the shaky cam effect in movies, known as “found footage”, this film will slightly annoy you.  When the kids should be running for safety, instead of filming the horror surrounding them, you’ll definitely be irritated.
·         Kathryn Hahn does a great job as the quirky, loving mom.
·         I get a kick out seeing M. Night Shyamalan make cameo performances in his own films, but I couldn’t find him in this one.  Did anyone see him?  Not that he HAS to appear, but I like that trademark touch, kind of like when Stan Lee shows up in a Marvel flick with a funny line.
·         I may have to watch this movie again just to look for the Easter eggs that M.Night Shyamalan is famous for including in his films.  Did you see any?  Was I too busy taking notes that I missed them?
·         So, what kind of a house doesn’t get cell phone reception, yet has an internet connection fast enough to allow video conferencing?  Lame.
·         The ending has a twist, which you expect from Shyamalan, but then there is a deeper subplot ending which basically ignores the traumatic events that have just occurred.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good moral to the story; it just felt like a scene was missing that would have transitioned the horror movie to the lesson learned.  I thought it was interesting that Becca said "I think sappy endings are tortuous" and yet that's what Shyamalan delivered.

Funny lines:
·         “Why are your pants so low?” – Nana
“I rap.” – Tyler
·         “Rap.  Right, cuz that’s how all winning documentaries end…with songs of misogyny.” – Becca winces, as she refers to her “ethnically confused” brother.  - SPOILER ALERT:  With a wink to the audience, M. Night Shyamalan includes more rapping from Tyler as the credits roll.
·         “You’re not as dumb as your performance on standardized tests would indicate.” – Becca to Tyler
·         “Great.  Our Pop Pop has schizophrenia and our Nana becomes Michael Myers  (LINK to youtube video)  at night.” – Tyler

Tips for Parents:
·         You see the naked backside of Deanna Dunagan twice.  Your kids may feel like Tyler when he says of the experience “I just went blind.”
·         The daughter has an impressive vocabulary that might leave younger kids missing some of the clever humor.  Brush up on words like “proclivities”, “misogyny”,  and “dénouement”.
·         There is profanity, a hanging body, and a couple of disturbing scenes with poopy Depends diapers.  All icky things.
·         Tyler and Becca have a family game that sounds pretty fun and encourages creative thinking.  They point to a building and say who they think lives there and what they do.  Try it with your own kids!
·         Audiences learn about “Sundowning syndrome”, which is an actual psychological phenomenon associated with Alzheimer’s patients.

·         I like one of the parenting techniques that the mother uses with her kids.  While on a video chat, they express their concerns about their crazy grandparents and the mom asks “What level of problem is this?”  The kids pick a number between 1 and 10.  Great idea!

M. Night Shyamalan movies that worked well:

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