I think I've figured out the secret of M. Night Shyamalan. His "twist," if you will. I bet he turns out to be an alien sent to Earth to study humanity. Looking for our weak spots, maybe.
Except he really doesn't have even the first clue about us and his experiments — which have so far taken the shape of movies — mostly go all wrong. He may have imagined, with his flawed understanding of what makes us tick, that The Village and The Happening and (dear God) After Earth were insightful explorations of the human psyche.
Alas, what's actually going with Shyamalan — in the great tradition of the 45-year-old director — is likely so ridiculously mundane as to be barely worth discussing. Maybe he really is just a guy who had one, maybe two (Unbreakable, anyone?) decent films in him. Bo-ring!
And now we have The Visit, another terrible Shyamalan movie that relies on people behaving in ways real people wouldn't behave in a situation that makes no damn sense at all because otherwise there would be no story. Also, in the grand tradition of Shyamalan, there's pretty much no story anyway.
A couple of kids — 15-ish Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her little brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), who's about 12 — spend a week with their mother's parents, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), and maybe there's odd doings afoot at their remote rural Pennsylvania house.
Is Pop Pop up to something nasty in the woodshed? Does Nana's penchant for strange nocturnal behavior mean she's a werewolf? Why shouldn't the kids, as Pop Pop instructs, come out of their room after 9:30 at night? Why shouldn't they go into the basement? Is mold really the only unpleasant thing down there?
Here's a "twist" that came as quite an irritating surprise to me as The Visit opened: This is Shyamalan's found-footage movie, and if he thought he had something to add to this long-played-out technique, there is no evidence of it here.
The Visit never gets anywhere near any meaningful – or even shallow – exploration of the relationship between grandparents and grandkids, or family secrets. And though it clearly hopes to elicit emotions along those charged tracks, it does nothing but inspire outrage that Shyamalan has, once again, managed to trick us into wasting our time on anticlimactic banality.
Writ./Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
Opens September 11, .5 stars
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