The Visit

tn_visitM. Night Shyamalan has had one of the harshest popularity drop-offs of any name brand movie director. THE SIXTH SENSE got him a couple films worth of “could he be a new Spielberg?” goodwill before the love affair ended non-amicably. He rubbed many of us the wrong way by becoming increasingly self-aggrandizing as his movies got more and more misguided, arguably culminating in the ridiculous LADY IN THE WATER, where the villain is a pompous film critic and Shyamalan himself plays a writer whose work is destined to inspire the next Martin Luther King. Of course, most people limit their critique to making fun of the twist endings he used to do and xenophobically refusing to expend a regular amount of effort to learn his last name. (SHAW-MUH-LAWN, guys. Fewer syllables than Tarantino or Kurosawa. You can learn it.)

These days he doesn’t even get a fair shot. AFTER EARTH, for example, did not deserve the disdain it got. But I think we’re fair in assuming he’s not gonna turn out to be a great director for the ages.

THE VISIT is not a rebirth of the once promising writer-director, but it’s a positive step. It shows an awareness I didn’t know he had. Instead of floundering with ambitions far beyond his abilities he’s decided to slum it in the middling subgenre of the Jason Blum produced found footage/fake documentary horror movie (see also: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 1, 2, 3, 4 and GHOST DIMENSION, THE BAY, AREA 51, THE GALLOWS, UNFRIENDED 1 and 2). While the format is usually used as a workaround for filmmaking competence and professional actors, Shyamalan treats it as a creative challenge. It never seems like laziness, it seems like a puzzle. Can he use this “kid with handheld camera” bullshit and still get in some of his favorite things: great performances by young actors, some beautiful shots, some sadness and sentiment?

Yes. It’s also full of his humor, which in my opinion is usually a bad thing, but here some of it works. The young stars do a great job with their very stylized, precocious dialogue, meant to show that they’re very smart kids, but also making it stand out from other fakumentaries where the actors mostly banter in their own words. For me it alternated between cute characterization and annoying self indulgence as the girl talks all high falutin about her documentarian philosophy.

It’s the story of young Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), a brother and sister sent to stay for a week with their grandparents (Deanne Dunagan and Peter McRobbie), who they’ve never met because of a mysterious falling out with their mom (Kathryn Hahn). Becca is an aspiring filmatist who decides to make a documentary about the mystery of what happened, thinking it could heal the relationship.

mp_visitSome of the details seem a little off to me (why would the grandparents they never met already be called “Nana and Pop Pop”?) but there’s a fun and darkly humorous escalation as the kids notice the usually lovely old folks doing increasingly strange and scary things on occasion. It mostly happens at night when they don’t think they’re being watched, but my favorite is the scene where Grandma unexpectedly joins an under-the-house hide-and-seek game with the kids and enthusiastically crawls around in the dirt, growling, with her hair in her face like a J-horror ghoul.

I wouldn’t say this is a truly scary movie, but it does deal with a legitimate childhood fear of old people, staying in other people’s houses and feeling like you’re supposed to be close to someone because you’re related but you really don’t know them. And I can’t think of another horror movie off hand that deals with that type of stuff. There can’t be too many of them.

One reason found footage movies have become such a thing is because it’s easy for novice filmmakers to get naturalistic performances out of rookie actors by having them improvise the dialogue, and be allowed to talk to the camera, and just let the camera keep rolling without having to worry about setting up again, because who gives a shit, it’s supposed to look like some garbage home video anyway, not a real movie made by professionals for paying moviegoers to be satisfied with. Shyamalan discards that, using very scripted dialogue and still managing to get very good performances out of this cast. It’s even more impressive now that I realize both of the kids are Australian, doing American accents that fooled me.

There is, yes, a pretty good twist, and the climax at least has a novel way to gross us out, even though I didn’t need that in my life, thanks alot Shyamalan. The mom, who they Skype with throughout the visit, is very sympathetically played by recognizable professional actress Hahn. She actually has an emotional arc like a character in a real, non-found-footage movie. I dare say Shyamalan managed to transcend the format a little.

But there is one major drawback that I feel I have an ethical responsibility to warn you about, and that is…

(Pause for a moment to consider what it is you think would be the major problem in this found footage horror movie. Can you guess it?)

…the freestyle raps. Okay, you guessed it. Maybe that was too obvious.

That’s bad-comedy-Shyamalan talking there. He made the decision to have Tyler’s cutesy character quirk be that he loves freestyle rapping. I’ve blocked the memory out of my mind, but I’d guess there are three or more cringe-inducing scenes where the kid does his worse-than-Bulworth a capella raps, and the characters have to act like they think he’s good. For hilarity purposes the rhymes are always about how awesome he is with women (kids say the darndest things!) and then he calls someone a ho, and Becca verbally objects to his misogyny.

I actually feel bad for the kid, because it’s cool that he’s in a pretty good movie, but obviously he can never watch it after he gets older, or he’ll feel a deep shame in the pit of his stomach that will chew on his soul until he loses the light in his eyes forever and stumbles through adulthood as an empty space covered in a thin shell of regrets. This is partly due to the painful lack of rhythm, but mainly the racial uncomfortableness of a little towheaded white kid talking in “rapper voice” and ebonics about what a kid like that thinks rappers are supposed to talk about. He’s a kid, he didn’t know any better, but there were adults there that failed in their duties as guardians.

WHICH IS WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT. Holy shit. Anyway, as we can say about so many of the horror movies now, other than the freestyle rapping it’s not bad.


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 11:44 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

80 Responses to “The Visit”

  1. I forgive the terrible rapping because the verse at the end brings back the venerable tradition of having a terrible hip-hop song that gives a book report about the movie’s plot over the end credits. I’m not sure if this has been done in a non-Ninja Turtles-related film since the mid-nineties. So good job on that, Shyamalan. Maybe try and suggest that to John Hyams for the MA-MA-MA-MA-MA-MA-MANIAC COP remake.

    I thought there was some fairly clever meta shit in there about Shyamalan as a director that related to what Vern said about him lightening up a bit by dabbling in this disreputable subgenre (found footage) within a disreputable genre (jump scare horror). Becca represents old Night: formal to a fault, treats actors like chess pieces to be moved around (the running gag about everybody she meets claiming to be an actor is the kind of joke only a director would think is funny), the general favoring of cold style over messy personality. The rapping brother, who assumes co-directing duties, is new Night: lighter, more focused on people, unashamed to give the audience what it wants, and way less of a control freak about inconsequential shit like symbolic shots of a rope swing in the breeze. I think it’s Shyamalan admitting some weaknesses he has and poking fun at them, while also trying to fix them by doing something outside of his comfort zone. I think it’s a decent little thriller and a far more honest, humble, and telling meta-movie than LADY IN THE WATER, which I couldn’t even get through.

  2. Crushinator Jones

    January 7th, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Mr. Majestyk, don’t forget the kissin’ cousin of the rap credits: the lovestruck ballad sung over the film’s main theme. Titanic, Mask of Zorro, etc. etc. etc.

  3. You said you couldn’t think of a horror movie dealing with these themes. I can think of a short story: Stephen King’s “Grammar” which this movie reminded me a lot of actually.

    It was adapted into an episode of the 80s TWILIGHT ZONE reboot, which scared the mother fucking shit out of me when I was about 8 years old.

    As for THE VISIT: not bad! I’ve never been an M. Night hater though, always found his stuff at least interesting. I hated LADY IN THE WATER as much as everyone…but I do have to at least admit it was original.

  4. That’s GRAMMA..not “Grammar”. I really hate this spell check sometimes!!!


    I really enjoyed this. Solid 3-stars from me.

    I went into hopeful but chastened: I wasn’t sure it would work, but at least the premise seemed more grounded and indicative of a humbled Shymalan who was finally ready to give it a rest with all the ponderous, self-important bullshit and just scare us, bro.

    And I think he mostly succeeded. With the Village (which I actually kinda like), I literally detected the twist about 10 minutes in, and that is less reflective of my psychic abilities than of the fact that at the time Village came out, the old “Shymalan twist” was becoming predictable and played out. The tail wagging the dog of the movie. I think we needed Shymalan to go through all of the crap he’s gone through (and inflicted on the rest of us) to get back to a point where a simple nail-biter yarn like this can work. Stripping down to something simple and primal.

    I totally did not see the twist coming, which, again, is less reflective of what a dolt I am (though maybe I am) but is reflective of the fact that I was actually getting sucked into the movie and freaked out just about the suspense of what was unfolding scene-by-scene, rather than being cynical and detached, scanning for the twist. I was absorbed in the film. I think the movie could have worked even without the twist, but I thought the twist kicked ass (and knocked me on my ass). It was a legitimate, “Oh, shit!” moment and definitely upped the peril factor and stakes significantly. Great premise, very novel, freaky as hell, great twist, excellent, crowd-pleasing payoff and resolution.

    I absolutely hated the rapping. I was really embarrassed for the kid and Shyamalan and really everyone involved (including the rest of the audience). Shit man, that’s like if 1993 Marky Mark were transformed into a kid, frozen in ice, and thawed in 2015. Please. Stop.

    I though the grandparent actors were great. Very interesting characters, really solid, weird, nuanced characters. True oddballs but not just one-note trope oddballs. I’m looking forward to giving this one a second viewing around Halloween-time next year.

  6. The only movie of his I didn’t like was The Happening. I might put The Last Airbender on there but I never saw it. I don’t like the cartoon so I can’t imagine I would dig the movie.

    I dug The Visit quite a bit. Even the raps were fun to listen to. That extra bit at the end turned on my heart light. I’ve heard some people didn’t like that so much but I’m a sappy fuck so I eat that kind of shit up.

  7. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m used to seeing the mom (Hahn) in comedies or because she reminds me of Ana Gasteyer, but it was kind of hard for me to take her seriously in a dramatic role–or at least in this one. The mom and the boy were weak links in terms of acting. For me it was the grandparents and the premise that really sold it for me.

  8. To be fair Vern, if M. Night were a 100% Caucasian WASP with the same last name and displayed the same level of arrogance/ineptitude in his later films I would still pronounce his last name SHAMMA-LAMA-DING-DONG.




    I think Shymalan did a nice job in setting up the twist. Throughout the movie the grandparents keep talking about the weird creatures they saw at the well. Later the grandmother mentions they’re aliens. It primes you, the audience, to expect a dumb supernatural twist when in fact the grandparents aren’t the grandparents at all, just escaped lunatics from the local mental hospital the real grandparents volunteered at. The twist is so simple but explains everything in a satisfactory manner.

  10. I haven’t seen this, so I can’t say, maybe it makes some kind of sense, but what kind mom ships off her kids to stay with people they don’t know & who you’ve got some sort of complicated baggage with?

  11. MaggieMayPie – It makes sense in the movie but to explain it, I would have to reveal spoilers. It is explained in the movie though.

  12. Apart from THE HAPPENING – which is truly awful – I’ve like everything else from Shyamalan. I just love to discuss THE VILLAGE with people who have strong political views and still didn’t get that movie.

  13. Christof – I’ll buy that. I guess I’m against name calling in general, though. If you really want to insult him don’t call him “Shamalamadingdong,” call him “M. Night Shyamalan, director of LADY IN THE WATER and THE HAPPENING.”

  14. I don’t really get why LADY IN THE WATER should be an insult. It’s weird, yes, but it’s not bad.

  15. The only Shyamalan movie I think is flat out bad, rather than misguided, is The Last Airbender. Without a doubt the most amateurish big budget movie I’ve ever seen. This isn’t some cartoon fanboy rant because the movie is very bad on its own terms and thus I do not feel it’s credentials as an adaptation should even come up (it’s actually very faithful). On the bright side Airbender is kind of funny, I have never before seen a movie where (almost) literally ever line of dialogue is exposition.

    As for The Visit, I was avoided it in theaters when I learned it was found-footage but was pleasant surprised when I gave it a rent on video.

  16. I only just now figured out that Ana Gasteyer and Kathryn Hahn are two different people.

  17. THE HAPPENING is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I’m usually pretty easy going about movies and just say, “eh, didn’t really like it,” or “not for me”. But THE HAPPENING was flat out terrible. Ridiculous story and some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen. Were they honestly playing it for laughs because they realized it was total shit? It was painful to watch.

  18. You like hot dogs, right?

  19. @pegsman, LADY IN THE WATER is a pretty much universally disliked movie. I’ve linked this before, but I’m doing it again just because I like it so much:

    Lady in the Water Movie Review (2006) | Roger Ebert

    The key to deciphering M. Night Shyamalan's fractured fairy tale, "Lady in the Water," is to remember that it is rooted in the mythology of Stephen Colbert and "The Colbert Report." It is a warning to Mankind about the dire threat posed by ferocious topiary bears in America today, and a salute to the gigantic, soaring eagle who swoops in to rescue Wet Ladies from pitiless ursine jaws and claws. Colbert oughtta sue.

  20. So if the Airbender cartoon sucks and the movie it’s based on also sucks, doesn’t that technically make The Last Airbender movie a success in what it set out to do?

  21. Never seen the Airbender cartoon, but everything I’ve heard about it (until now, I guess) has been positive.

  22. I hated the Airbender cartoon. Granted, I only saw a few episodes and maybe it’s better as a whole piece, but apart from the awful pseudo-anime artstyle and animation (The only thing that I dislike more than real anime, are not-japanese cartoons that try to look like them) the episodes I saw were super dumb, with stories that unfolded exactly like you expected them to happen. I was reminded of certain 80s cartoons in the way it tried to tell me something super cheesy as the smartest piece of kids entertainment ever. That’s pretty much the main reason why I never watched the movie. If it really is that bad, I would just shrug and wonder why everybody would be upset about something, that seems to me like a faithful adaptation of the series.

  23. I think the issue most people familiar with AIRBENDER as an adaptation is that it supposedly condensed almost seven hours of TV into just over 90 minutes very badly. As someone who only saw bits and pieces of the series, I can only say it’s easily Shyamalan’s most inept film, technically and as a storytelling exercise (and I was quite impressed by the trailers). Maybe I would rather see it again then LADY IN THE WATER though. Interestingly Roger Ebert seemed to suggest he was quite the fanboy for the original series in his review, whereas, to my memory, he always pleaded complete unfamiliarity with almost all previous TV adaptations.

    AFTER EARTH was a considerable improvement but, as with so many bombs this decade (e.g. LONE RANGER, JOHN CARTER), I just don’t think it’s interesting or holistically successful enough for me to actually defend at any length.

  24. Christof, other people’s dislike, or love, for a film, TV-show, radio play or holiday slides never have any impact on me before, during or after I watch something. And when I hear about some of these internet witch hunts my first instinct is to stick up for the hunted.

  25. Majestyk- The best post-90s credits rap I can think of is in otherwise worthless (as far as I recall) DTV film FRANKENFISH (which Vern did review back in the day). “What the hell was they thinking, creating the sea demon?”. And of course DEEP BLUE SEA’s infamous “hat/shark fin” rap took us all the way to the end of the 90s.

    It’s interesting this film apparently show some self-awareness on Shyamalan’s part as from an interview I read leading up to the film, I really got the impression he was still as deluded as he seemed to be in the days of that infamous LADY IN THE WATER making-of book, his comments about a “filmmaking secret” available to only him and Spielberg etc.; he said that he knew critics could not be taken seriously as they gave ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS films better reviews than THE HAPPENING and AIRBENDER

  26. How could I forget “Deepest, Bluest,” definitely the best rap song ever made about a grown man pretending to marine life?

    My second favorite kind of credits song is the one where they take the title of a badass action movie and somehow turn it into a song about romance. Prominent examples include “Lethal Weapon” and “Megaforce (Theme From Megaforce).”

  27. I really like LADY IN THE WATER, despite the obvious narcissism and ego-insecurity of certain elements. It’s almost Shyamalan doing a contemporaneous urban take on Miyazaki. It’s my fave movie of his, maybe tied with UNBREAKABLE.

    Up until THE HAPPENING, all his movies were at least well-acted. AIRBENDER would be the nadir in this regard.

  28. “Deepest Bluest” is a miracle song in a miracle movie.

    GRANDMA’S BOY, of all things, has an end credits rap explaining the narrative, which seemed like a ’90s throwback. One was actually recorded for the credits of DETENTION, but it never ended up fitting the end vibe.

  29. I also just remembered that WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER had an (anachronistic) rap song by Chubb Rock over its credits, and that was 2000.

    Okay, I take back what I said in my first comment. Fuck you, Shyamalan, you hack. You brought back NOTHING. YOUR HAT IS IN NO WAY SIMILAR TO A SHARK FIN

  30. I went into The Happening with a friend on the theatre’s discount day fully expecting to mostly enjoy it. Halfway through, I started to suspect that it was a stealth comedy. I gather that it was likely intended as half comedy, half horror; fair enough, but the former definitely overwhelmed the latter. (It was Marky Mark yelling “think, douchebag! Do science” at himself with a steady rhythm of gunshots in the background that convinced me that they just had to be in on the joke.)

  31. I’m about midway through Wayward Pines, and am really struggling to like it. The setup was intriguing, but now that the mystery has been explained (at about ep 5), it seems kinda stupid. And deathly dull.

    Now, I really liked THE VISIT and thought it had some effective moments (granny under the house freaked me right out), but as with most of the twists in M. Nights films, it renders what came before somewhat toothless. They can definitely be interesting like the good for evil ciphers of UNBREAKABLE, or the closure of relationship and injustice issues from beyond the grave in THE SIXTH SENSE (which I personally think is rubbish), but on reflection I don’t think they hold a lot of water.

  32. Oh, and Granny exposing herself to the kids will give me nightmares for years to come. Well done Shyamalan.

  33. I haven’t seen this, probably never will because I don’t watch found footage movies anymore no matter what (not to be conceited but because there are always other movies out there I would choose to watch instead), but my wife did. She said it was one of the most unintentionally funny movies she has ever seen and proceeded to explain in the best possible way how horrible this movie was. She may have also ruined the movie for other people in the theater because her and her friend laughed the whole way through.

  34. I don´t know what to think of Shyamalans new version of TALES FROM THE CRYPT. People are bitching that the cryptkeeper is not gonna be in it, but I don´t see if it is relevant or not.

  35. People are also complaining that there won’t be as much tits and gore as in the HBO show, but the comics weren’t really gory sexy either, so I don’t care. Bring it on, M! I love my anthology shows!

  36. Right. Also, I’ll take what I can get. I’d rather there be a less gory Tales from the Crypt than no Tales from the Crypt. Of course, now that I’m thinking about it, that kind of makes me wish it were a Netflix kind of deal.

  37. Isn’t the Crypt Keeper sort of the de facto mascot for Tales From the Crypt throughout it’s history?

  38. I think they could do it with or without the Cryptkeeper. On the one hand, I could see where someone might say, “You can’t have TftC without the Cryptkeeper,” but on the other hand I can see where they may want to make it their own and not have it be like it’s just picking up right where the old one left off with new episodes. For me what really matters is whether it’s a genuinely good suspense-horror anthology.

    Also, Sternshein, I have heard the “unintentionally funny” charge leveled at the Visit here and there on the nets, and although I do think it is unintentionally funny at points (the rapping kid and his mom), I also think it’s legitimately pretty creepy. I was absorbed and genuinely enjoying the thriller aspect of it, but I will admit that there were some college kids chuckling at the campus theatre where I saw it; and, yes, it did kind of diminish my experience a bit.

  39. I can’t see what part would be unintentionally funny. It’s full of dark humor. The grandma showing up under their house, for example, or of course the line in the trailer about the oven. Come to think of it, that was called unintentionally funny by some people when the trailer came out, which shows how much people are ready to not give Shymalan credit for anything. I mean, that is undeniably an intentional laugh line, especially as edited in the trailer.

    And the rapping, as painful as it is, is clearly meant to be a quirky character trait. I strongly believe there is more unintentionally not funny than unintentionally funny.

  40. I think I agree with you Vern. The bottom line is that there were moments when my audience seemed to be laughing at things that I don’t think were intended to induce laughter–or at least I didn’t find them funny, but who’s to say. In any event, I gather that the boy’s rapping shtick was supposed to be at least somewhere in the neighborhood of goof-ily cute or endearing, as opposed to its actual landing place of actively cringe-inducing and alienating. With Kathryn Hahn, something about the performance also seemed awkward and amateurish, though I can’t say whether that was just the dialogue, the whole Skype conceit, miscasting, or just a comedic actress clearly out of her depth. It was one or some combination of those, I think, but I need a second viewing.

    Anyway, bottom line: I agree that the whole “unintentionally funny” thing is an overplayed and unfair criticism, but (a) there were parts that did not make me laugh that seemed to make the college kids laugh (and I’m all for laughter), and (b) there were definitely parts that were painfully and seemingly unintentionally awkward or where it seemed that some aspect of the final performance was not eliciting what I infer to be the intended reaction. Then again, maybe I’m selling Night short.


    For instance, I distinctly recall some folks in the audience laughing during the final bedroom confrontation with the daughter and the grandma, while meanwhile, I was actively creeped the hell out and couldn’t detect anything intentionally funny in the scene. Nor did it seem like nervous laughter, not that I’m a laugh-ologist or anything. In contrast, when the boy has his final confrontation with gramps, there were definitely some cheers and so forth that seemed clearly indicative of vicariously celebrating the kid conquering his fears and kicking the old man’s ass.

  42. Lots to discuss here. (Mild spoilers) 1) Inappropriate audience laughter is the worst and part of the reason I have no problem waiting until video for most things. I recently shelled out money to go see Aliens on the big screen. And my reward for paying to see a movie I own already on VHS, DVD, and Bluray?? A digital print that looked just like my Bluray and giggling hipsters laughing during the ENTIRE MOVIE. Just like you said about The Visit, Skani, I have NO IDEA what they were laughing at, it just seemed random and not influenced by anything actually going on screen. I think this is a young people’s phenomenon and if their goal is to drive old (mid 30s) guys like me away from the theatre, congratulations, they win.

    2) I’m not sure if I’d call this the best found footage movie ever but it’s up there. Nothing matches that showstopping setpiece from Willow Creek or the cleverness and big scope of The Bay, but this one has the character development and strong story most FF movies lack. Plus the cinematography is unusually strong and I like that Shyamalan trusts the audience to catch things that are shown for a split second – a hanging body, a character quickly grabbing a shard from a broken mirror, the shotgun in the mouth bit) – it reminded me a bit of the end of Zero Dark Thirty where you think you see something and you’re not quite sure if that’s what you saw or if your mind is filling in the blanks.

    3) I really liked After Earth so I won’t call this a comeback or a return to form like most people, but i’ll say I’m glad Shyamalan’s special blend of horror and Spielbergian emotion is back – the family/daddy issues stuff is actually touching and organic to the story and I think (with the obvious exceptions) that Shyamalan is a little underrated as an actor’s director – he can get really strong stuff from both big stars and unknowns alike but everyone unfairly just boils him down to “the guy with the twists”.

    4) Speaking of which, even though i guessed “the twist” fairly early, I like how low-key it is. It’s more of a reveal, like a standard horror story twist, not a big game-changer, and I like that Shyamalan smartly hints at a wilder twist to distract you from what it really is. (Even though SPOILER – the wilder twist could still be true for all we know, there’s nothing to confirm it or dispute it onscreen).

    5) Wayward Pines, on the other hand, did have a game-changing, mindblowing twist. It’s so complex it takes a full TWO episodes to explain it all. But yeah, after that it kinda falls apart, and MILD SPOILER – i hate that it devolved into one of those things where the hero rails against the utopia because we’re human and need to be allowed to make horrible mistakes, damnit, even though the utopia is clearly the better solution and I’m going to get everyone killed but damnit, at least we’re free, MURICA!! etc.. (END SPOILER) I felt like the ending to The World’s End was kind of the last word on that type of ending and I’m surprised they went for it.

    6) Nerd alert/SUPER SPOILER – The kid’s rap at the end explains how he killed a guy like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, even though he actually killed him like Mel in Lethal Weapon 2. Yes, that’s an incredibly nerdy niptick but I still love they put this line in though.

  43. Oh and it hurts my heart to see people not liking Avatar: The Last Airbender TV show. There’s a reason it has such a rabid fanbase, because despite it’s kid trappings, it’s surprisingly thoughtful and rich, with great characters and inventive world-building, and it’s the closest thing I can think of as a true successor to Star Wars. The movie’s attempt to cram all of season 1 into 2 hours was destined to fail, but the horrible casting and charmless performances are really what sink the movie. It’s easily M. Night’s worst movie in my book.

    Avatar’s sequel series, The Legend of Korra, however, isn’t anywhere as good as the first show, even though it undeniably influenced the heck out of The Force Awakens.

  44. My 31 year old wife laughed through all of this movie because she thought it was a laughably bad pile of shit. How is that inappropriate. It’snot like she was laughing during Schindlers List. Maybe those kids hated Aliens.

  45. Sorry Sternshein, I was actually responding to Skani’s comment above; I didn’t see your earlier comment and don’t want you to think that was a personal attack on your wife or anything.

  46. I didn’t know that was a response to anyone. lol

  47. Sternshein, your wife so [something] that when she [does something mundane] [something cartoonishly funny and/or ironic happens].

    Is what it is. I think there is an element of expectations and what you see is what you want to see. If you come into the film thinking Shyamalan is a hopeless self-important hack who makes cloying unintentionally funny stuff, and you’re basically coming in for an MST3K-style goof, then I think that colors the experience as far as what comes to the foreground and what recedes to the background. I came into the film hoping to be scared and creeped out and with a level of beginner’s mind earnestness, and with that expecatation set, I think the film delivered creeps and atmosphere in spades (plus, some jump scares and a good twist).

  48. I hated SPLIT so fucking much that it actually made me angry. Sorry for unloading that negativity here but it’s been eating away at me since I saw it last night and I just needed someplace to vent. Can’t remember the last film that made me as mad as SPLIT. McAvoy was absolutely phenomenal in it though. He was literally the only reason I didn’t walk out in the first hour, and by the end of the film I wish I had. Sorry again etc won’t go on about it because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who is going to check it out but fuck that movie in my opinion.

  49. Why? Is saying why like super major spoilers?

  50. Sternshein – For me it would be impossible to discuss the very real vitriol I feel towards it without going into exhaustive spoilery detail. I will say this though – I hate it just as much for being a tedious, flat, boring, condescending, unremittingly expository film going experience as much as I hate it for a laundry list of other shit integral to the narrative of the film that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who are going to check it out for themselves.

  51. Ok, I was wondering if it were just about why you can’t spoil it or that the movie without the stuff you don’t want to talk about was bad. Sounds like it’s working for most people. I’ve never seen the other thing you don’t want to talk about so I don’t even know how what you don’t want to talk about means for the movie as a whole.

  52. I enjoyed SPLIT fwiw. I thought the spoiler was fun. Takes all kinds, I s’pose.

  53. So the complaint that makes people angry regarding Shyamalans latest was the plot twist. The sky is blue, women have secrets, what else is new?

  54. It’s not a plot twist really.

  55. My loathing of the film has nothing at all to do with the splotoilertwist(s) whateverthefuck(s) etc. But there are things that happen in the film that I found loathsome which are plot and character related which are certainly spoilers as far as the narrative through line is concerned so I’m avoiding speaking on them until an official review goes up.

  56. I haven’t fully made up my mind on SPLIT. It’s more interesting than a lot of movies that are better than it, but I’m having trouble with the way some of its characters are treated. There’s a theme that emerges that, while not quite the Ayn Randian view of genetic supremacy, isn’t far off.

  57. I still don’t understand why people around here want interesting more than they want good.

  58. Split is undoubtedly a dumb movie. I enjoyed it because it was kind of crazy and weird, and Shyamalan still knows where to put his camera, but I can understand why many might not like it. Also, I’ve kind of been rooting for Shyamalan to get his groove back. For what it’s worth, I thought The Visit was the more successful Shyamalan comeback vehicle.

  59. As the resident M Night defender, even I hated Split more than Lady in the Water, maybe not as much as After Earth. I think I can articulate it without spoilers.

    Split should be about the girls teaming up to escape caltivity. As soon as McAvoy becomes the main character it becomes the wrong movie. Fetishizing mental illness as a cool villain is problematic too.

    Fred, if the focus on McAvoy’s character (vs. the captive girl) hurts your filmgoing experience, then I can’t argue with your experience, of course. On the other hand, I would push back on the growing tendency to evaluate films based on their supposed political subtext or implications, even when the films are avowedly escapist and have no obvious aspirations of making a political statement. Why does the film need to be about the captive girls as our main protagonists? Aren’t most mainstream thriller films like this primarily about the protagonists; so, why not go in another direction here and do something different. Also, in a lot of respects the film is about both McAvoy and the main protagonist [Side note: I think Shyamalan plays a neat trick on us by setting us up to initially identify with the two more cliched ‘beautiful people’ female captives only to have them eventually recede into the background as things unfold]. Also, McAvoy’s performance is in my opinion Oscar-worthy, and not just for the show-offy elements of it, though those are fun, too. It’s a great character and a wonderfully realized performance.

    Finally, I don’t for a minute resonate with the outcry that this stigmatizes the mentally ill–any more than Norman Bates or Buffalo Bill stigmatizes the mentally. He’s a cool, nutbag fictional character in a long line of such, and he is a worthy entry into that pantheon imho. The film seeks to take us on a weird, creepy, scary, claustrophobic journey, and I think it succeeds.

  61. Having said all that, I don’t think SPLIT is a masterpiece or “game changer” or anything like that. I don’t even think it’s “great.” It’s pretty good.

  62. Skani – “The film seeks to take us on a weird, creepy, scary, claustrophobic journey, and I think it succeeds.” I agree that was the film’s intention but I don’t think it succeeded at all, not for me at least. It had no sense of pacing, escalation or incident. It was just a series of terribly written two-hander conversations which were 80% clunky exposition and 20% interesting character / thematic developments interspersed with an occasional and brief “breakout” sequence which was always swiftly and predictably resolved (which may very well have been an attempt at subverting the form, which is fine, but which doesn’t excuse them from being so staggeringly uninspired in their staging and execution).

    It also didn’t bother me in the slightest that the captive girls AKA ‘beautiful people’ were not the protagonists and to be honest at no point did I expect them to be. And as someone who suffers with mental illness themselves I find the use of that trope in films to be not offensive in the slightest and, specifically in SPLIT’s case, completely in line with the (spoiler) final scene and what it suggests about the universe that the film exists in.

    I don’t want to be spamming Vern’s comments thread with my annoyances for a film he hasn’t even reviewed yet so I’m going to stop this jibber jabber and go back to absolutely devouring his latest RESIDENT EVIL reviews but based on the responses to SPLIT so far I’m really looking forward to discussing it with you awesome people wholesale if and when Vern decides to eventually drop his knowledge on it. But the reason I wanted to punch this film in the balls has yet to be addressed here.

  63. The twist is that everyone will be disappointed when I reveal what my major issue with the film was (just getting that one out of the way nice and early).

  64. Skani, I can only analyze the film I was given and why it didn’t work for me. When I wasn’t captivated by McAvoy’s story I started to wonder what could make me care more and I came up with I thought I’d prefer a female empowering escape movie. I’ve loved Shyamalan’s most maligned films so the twist is I hated his comeback.

    900, I cannot wait to find out your twist.

  65. Mixalot, Fred: I look forward to hearing more from you on this film. My reaction is that the film is pretty good, maybe a little overrated. I stand by the assessment that McAvoy’s performance is Oscar-worthy, though nothing else about the film is. I’ll try to resist the temptation to exaggerate how good the film is to justify liking it. Shyamalan talks about his films and choices as if they were much deeper art than I think they are, but I think they’re generally inventive and well-crafted crowd-pleaser schlock. I like the idea if him and Blumhouse cranking out one of these ditties every year, and I’m fully prepared for the output to be uneven.

  66. I have started to distrust other peoples experiences with Shyamalans works. Their anger seem to come from places I cannot acknowledge. ut then again, I´ve enver seen anoth Shyamalamadingdong production since UNBREAKABLE

  67. I can´t spell for shit tonight.

  68. Anderson is no stranger to shakycam. Go back and watch DEATH RACE. Also, he practically invented Avid Farts with EVENT HORIZON. So the quick cutting and spastic camerawork of this one was just him backsliding.

    I can kind of see why. It seems like they wanted to bring this one back to the franchise’s horror roots (in keeping with my vague understanding of the direction the video game series has gone), and you can’t really do that with smooth, Matrix-y camera moves and stylized wirework choreography. These techniques are used to show that a character is in full control of his/her destiny, and this one is all about making Alice the underdog again so that you fear for her safety (something no one has done in at least four and a half movies). The mise en scene is chaotic and frantic, not cool and calculated, to show a heroine at the end of her resources who may actually lose this time.

    Now, while I appreciate this strategy in theory, I only started liking this series because of the clean and classically shot action set-pieces, so I can’t say I’m glad they went in this direction. I did like the movie, but it’s more of an impressionist sketch of an action movie than an actual action movie. It’s still probably my third favorite in the series.

    Also, it’s pretty clear that the budget was lower, so maybe that dictated the visual approach. It’s hard to do ultra-precision on a budget.

  69. Oh shit. Wrong thread.

  70. Sternshein:

    Have you ever thought you demanding quality for your hard-earned money is the problem? That putting your money down, expecting to be entertained as a return on your investment is putting too much pressure on the entertainers? What I’m trying to say is, maybe you should lower your expectations like the rest of us. The prospects of feeling like you didn’t waste your time and money go up greatly! Just trying to look for you man, after all… we’re late-career Jackie Chan brothers now.

  71. This could be considered SPOILERS




    I would say though that there’s a difference between depicting a Buffalo Bill as a realistic result of an untreated mental illness driving a person to murder and saying that dissociative personality disorder gives you awesome super powers.

    I do agree McAvoy is great in it. Not the first case of a great performance in a misguided movie. I loved The Visit though.


    I enjoyed the VISIT a lot, too. I think this was the more polished, professional, and “cinematic” experience, but the VISIT was perhaps more fun. Definitely, with SPLIT I think you have to suspend disbelief as far as this clearly being something beyond textbook dissociative identity disorder. That’s why I don’t really get the outrage as far as stigmatizing dissociative identity disorder, since I think most reasonably literate people with access to the internet could quickly learn (if they can’t intuit) that super-powers or the ability to radically change body chemistry is not actually a thing as far as DID is concerned. If you assume that this is a realistic portrayal of mental illness, then perhaps that would be offensive. But if instead you accept that this film universe is one very similar to ours but where something like super-powered mutants exist, then it’s not offensive, because he’s a mutant, not just a guy with DID. I kind of like the mutant angle, as it’s a little off-the-beaten-path as compared to the endless scores of psychological procedural thrillers (Kiss the Girls, Bone Collector, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Seven, etc., etc.) that we might have tended to lump this in with. It also makes an interesting companion piece to a certain other film, I think.

  73. I thought someone here would like to know that Shyamalan was at the recent state dinner at the White House. This kind of hard-hitting journalism / spadework is what you pay me the big bucks for.

    White House Releases State Dinner Guest List | The White House

    This evening, the President and the First Lady of the United States will host His Excellency Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, for a State Dinner. The following is a complete list of expected guests:  THE PRESIDENT AND DR. BIDEN HIS EXCELLENCY NARENDRA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA Ms. Huma Abedin &…

    Also, I still say THE VISIT is the best Shyamalan movie since THE VILLAGE (which I defend to this day!).

  74. No love for Knock at the Cabin? I liked it a fair bit.

  75. Haven’t seen it yet. After GLASS (such a heartbreaking face-plant of a sequel to two of his best films) and OLD (eye roll), Night’s in a timeout.

  76. I cannot dispute that logic.
    I can’t also say those factors didn’t inflate my opinion of KNOCK.

  77. I read the book and thought it was fairly tedious. Once the premise is established, it just goes around and around and around in circles until you don’t care anymore.

    BAD GUYS: Do the thing!

    GAY GUYS: We don’t want to do the thing.

    BAD GUYS: But you have to do the thing!

    GAY GUYS: Forget it, we’re not doing the thing!


    Repeat for 300 pages.

  78. An accurate representation of the current culture wars, then!
    I liked the book a lot, but yeah, that back and forth was a little trying. It’s still in the movie but a little less problematic because, 90 minutes. Also, Shyamalan ties it into his pet obsessions (fate, predestination, faith) pretty well; it feels personal without going into full stupid mode like so much of his more personal stuff does.

  79. Has anyone seen GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE? The premise is kind of similar – two siblings, sister older than the brother, are sent to their grandparent’s house, and things get a little murderous. But that’s where similarities end, because GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE is a z-grade 1988 movie produced by Niko Mastorakis and written and directed by people with some technical chops but absolutely no storytelling sense.

    It’s sometimes painful (especially the acting, which is… well, it’s something) but absolutely worth a watch if you like batshit crazy bad movies.

    (To stay a little on topic: I didn’t really care for THE VISIT a lot – it starts out well, but then it gets really, really Donald Kaufman; IIRC, it was when the kid’s coprophobia turns out to have an important role in the ending that I realized I fucking loathed the movie.)

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