PG-13 | 94 min | M. Night Shyamalan | (USA) | 2015
Review: I should have gone to see Gremlins at the midnight movies tonight.
Synopsis: A brother and sister go for a week-long vacation to visit their grandparents for the very first time. Upon getting to know their grandparents they learn that there is something greatly awry in their Pennsylvania farmhouse.
The only thing going for this review is that I had about four hours in the car to think about it prior to going on a massive stream of conscious rant about how disappointed I was. Frankly, the only thing scary about this movie was that immediately after the film I was attacked by my neighbor’s dog. The most humane way I can put this baby down is to argue why I was so let down by this film.
I noticed that several film sites bill this movie as horror / comedy. Spoiler alert…it was neither.
What Didn’t Work: There were several logistical problems with this film. I wanted to love this film; I want to love M. Night Shyamalan. I am a native of Pennsylvania, so I appreciate Mr. Shyamalan’s use of the state in filming and in narrative. Just like all of his films, the trailers and teasers for The Visit made me want to rush to the movies on opening day to behold what appeared to be an amazing horror film. I was convinced there was going to be rich narrative on family horror and a meaningful commentary on the elderly and Alzheimer’s Disease. Boy was I wrong on so many levels.
First problem (and this is a personal preference): The film was shot in first person. The young girl Becca (DeJonge) hopes to create documentaries one day so she and her brother embark on their visit with cameras in hand. This never works for me as I am constantly reminded that I am viewing things through someone else’s eyes and it creates a huge disconnect. This is by no means a fault of the acting as DeJonge was an excellent actress as were her co-stars.
Next, the plot never builds in a meaningful fashion. I was trying to explain this to my travel companion today as I was fuming after this film. I said, I wanted to know why Michael Meyers is the way he is, I needed to know why Jason Voorhees became who he is, and I cared about Nancy Thompson. I never cared enough about these characters and when M. Night Shyamalan built up any back story it was completely irrelevant to actual plot of the film. There were random daddy issues, family fights, and adult diapers. I feel that when there was no scare factor, M. Night Shyamalan resorted to trying to repulse the audience with meaningless attention to fecal waste.
The pacing was slow. At one point I pulled out my phone so I could specify that nothing scary had happened in the first hour of this 94 minute film. The teasers misrepresented some of the seemingly scary moments. There were a few predictable jump scares here and there but nothing scary, eerie, gory or thought provoking. The film overlays each day of the week onto the screen as they pass (and boy did it feel like a full week sitting there at times). If you watch the film, I suggest not to expect much until the film passes from Monday to Friday.
There is no important social commentary. Even the worst horror films usually have some great topics for discussion. The most important thing that I came away with is the misinformation and misrepresentation of sundowning.[i] The film was rumored to have a preliminary title of Sundowning so I am glad they changed it as the characterization of its symptoms were grandiose and the depiction of its origins is to say the least controversial.
What did work…well sort of, for the most part:
- The acting. This was not a case of Scream the television series where the actors detracted from the horror. These guys were really good in every sense of the word.
- The plot twist. True to M. Night Shyamalan form there is a plot twist and a pretty interesting one too. The only problem was that one good plot twist doesn’t make up for the other 90 minutes I wasted on the movie. You cannot build a movie off of a singular plot twist. And though it was good, it played out in a juvenile manner in which I completely likened it to a Scooby Doo reveal.
- Umm did I mention that the little boy Tyler raps throughout this film under his pseudonym T-Diamond Stylus?! Yup, bad choice after bad choice.
- M. Night Shyamalan, I don’t want to give up on you yet but I feel that you at owe me a trip to see Gremlins at the midnight movies after I sat through this one.
[i] For credible information about the behaviors characterized by Sundowning please see http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/sundowning/faq-20058511