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Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Visit 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

The VisitDirector: M. Night Shyamalan
Year: 2015
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan

For the past couple of weeks, I've been hearing from critics that The Visit (my latest review) is the utter comeback film for Mr. M. Night Shyamalan. Interesting. If that's the case, then why is he bent on ripping off The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity via the first hour in. Listen Night, I know you've been taking a ribbing for not living up to the stature that is The Sixth Sense. But this hand-held, found footage thing seems so tired now, it might need a veritable doze. Time to "visit" something else dude.

Filmed in rural Pennsylvania (that's the Shyamalan way you know), featuring a surprise twist that I didn't see coming (I'm probably the only Dodo bird critic that didn't pick up on that one), and being rather generous for its PG-13 rating (I feel this thing should have garnered a hard R), The Visit does what many Shyamalan films do. It builds to a slow creep while you wait for the gotcha cessation. The story begins with the Jamison family. Paula Jamison (the perky Kathryn Hahn) is a single mother of two. Her husband left her to move to California and she hasn't seen her parents in about 15 years. On a whim, she decides to go on vacation with her new boyfriend while her kids (Olivia DeJonge as Rebecca Jamison and Ed Oxenbould as Tyler Jamison) take a trip to their grandparents farmhouse in the bleak, Keystone State. Here's the rub: Said grandparents contacted Paula through the Internet so Rebecca and Tyler are meeting them for the very first time. Chaos then ensues when John Jamison (Peter McRobbie) and Doris Jamison (played by Deanna Dunagan who gives the film's best performance) begin to act weird and creep out their fragile, young kin. Suicidal tendencies, scaling walls, collective feces, and dead bodies in the basement are what's on tap for you the viewer. Oh and with the tagline for The Visit being "Don't ever leave your room after 9:30 p.m.", I thought it could be up there with "I see dead people". In the case of this flick, the stars weren't quite aligned.

In retrospect, there's a few chills to be had, a few jolts, and the performances by the old timers are pretty impressive (the kid actors on the other hand, are quite annoying). But in the end, it's just a movie about two adolescents trapped in a house with a couple of crazy, deranged denizens (where else are the whippersnappers supposed to go, it's in the middle of nowhere). Sadly, these two unhinged grandparents aren't aliens or ghosts. They're just whacked out of their minds. As for Shyamalan, well he seems to excel with certain shots when he's not letting the young actors film documentary style. Big mistake. He should have just cropped the whole hand-held facet, dropped the incorporated comedy (which is good yet becomes embarrassing when a rap act takes over the closing credits), and just let it ride. Oh well. The Visit isn't awful but it's no where near as epic (or eerie) as his first three films. My rating: A nontoxic 2 and a half stars.

Of note: With The Visit, you can easily tell what's jittery fodder and what amounts to some capable direction from M. Night. My suggestion would have been to separate the two. Maybe have the found footage crap subjugate through a different lens or have its rec insignia placed in the right hand corner. It's an oversight at best and probably wouldn't bring greatness to fruition. Anyway, look for some gross moments here (a seventy-year-old woman runs naked and there are various scenes of poop in a diaper, yikes!) and a couple of Dutch angles right before a disturbing game of Yahtzee. Oof!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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