director M. Night Shyamalan
Faux found footage is the last refuge of a director in career crisis. Case in point, The Visit and M. Night Shyamalan.
Shyamalan has been on a downslide ever since the world discovered him and The Sixth Sense (1999), and what a slide it’s been. Though I’ve followed his career and watched his movies with increasing amounts of schadenfreude, even I jumped ship for After Earth (2013).
I’ve long disdained faux found footage, largely because it’s over-employed, typically without real creative interest, mainly for cheap camera-work and cheaper shocks.
And yet, The Visit is still probably Shyamalan’s best film in years. It’s not great, maybe only good, but that’s a big leap up from The Last Airbender (2010).
Really, it could be considered distinctly ageist. It’s horror of the elderly, terror of dementia.
The casting is a big part of the film’s success. Olivia DeJonge is a stand-out as Becca, older sister of Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) who go to visit their estranged and never before met grandparents on at their rural house. The grandparents, Deanna Dunagan playss Nana and Peter McRobbie is Pop Pop, veer back and forth between kindly old folks and increasingly disoriented and frightening weirdos, thanks to dementia and other ills of old age.
It’s got a Shyamalan twist of course, one you’ll probably see some miles away, but the film works in part because it’s not utterly clear from the very beginning exactly what the nature of the danger is.
Has Shyamalan made a comeback? I watched a couple minutes of the “making of” featurette, which focused entirely on him and his “creative process”. He may have made a minor success but believe me, the ego has not landed.