Monday, 14 September 2015

The Visit (3 Stars)

M. Night Shyamalan must be under an immense amount of pressure. Early in his career, back in 1999, he made a film, "The Sixth Sense", that's considered to be one of the best films ever made. It was nominated for six Oscars, but unjustly won none. In that year "American Beauty" won most of the awards. That was strange. "American Beauty" is a good film, but not in the same class as "The Sixth Sense". If you don't believe me, ask your friends, 15 years on, how many of them have seen the two films, and if they've seen both which they think is better. I'll bet any money that almost all of them have watched "The Sixth Sense", while most have never even heard of "American Beauty". "American Beauty" has faded into obscurity. Of those who have seen both films you'll have difficulty finding even one who prefers it to "The Sixth Sense".

That was M. Night Shyamalan's peak, and he's never made it back. According to Wikipedia, all seven films that he directed from 2000 to 2013 made a profit at the box office. That's an admirable feat, but none of them were massive hits like "The Sixth Sense".

"The Visit" is a departure from his previous films. It's his first venture into the "found footage" genre, made on a considerably lower budget than his previous films. Many people hate found footage films, but I personally have nothing against them, if they're done well. It takes a lot of skill to professionally make a film that imitates the style of an amateur production.

The story is about two children, 15 and 13, who visit their grandparents for the first time. Their mother left home to marry a man 40 years older than her. On the day she left something happened which led to her never seeing her parents again, but she refuses to tell her children what it was. The children arrive at the house, but soon discover that their grandparents are acting strange.

The first half of the film was very good. The suspense and the mystery steadily built up. But then it all fizzled out. The explanation for the mystery was very trite. Probably the worst part was the explanation of what happened on the day their mother left. I was expecting some extreme dramatic event, but when we were told my feeling was "Huh? Is that all?"

Based on the evidence of this film M. Night Shyamalan has lost his way. I doubt he will ever make another film even close to "The Sixth Sense" in quality. It's time for him to retire.

For me the most memorable thing about the film is Olivia DeJonge, the Australian actress who plays the older of the two children. Her acting skills outshone everyone else in the film, as was most apparent in the close-ups of her face. This poor film could hardly be described as her breakthrough. I hope she will soon find the big role that she deserves.

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