The Visit (Extremely Belated Movie Review)

“I see dead people…”

I am writing the first draft of this review in the cafeteria of my new school, MacEwan University, in between my Human Interaction class and my Introductory Japanese class. I have no idea how my unscholarly self got into one of my better universities in Western Canada, but at this point, I’m just enjoying the experience until they (Whoever they may be) inevitably figure out that I’m a hack and kick my dumb ass out.

Speaking of hacks…

Best segue ever!!!

The Visit 

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, hours and hours of both horrifying and hilarious entertainment)

Produced by: Marc Bienstock, Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan

Written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Genre: Comedy, horror

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn

Music by: Paul Cantelon

Plot: 15-year old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her brother, 13-year old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent off to some hick town in Pennsylvania  by their mom (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother who’s taking this time taking this time to go on a well-deserved vacation. Becca is a wannabe documentary filmmaker, thus giving an excuse for this movie to fall into the tired “found footage” genre (Although now that I think of it, how many 15-year olds do you know that give a shit about documentaries?), and Tyler is a rapper who is not shy at all about sharing his…Um…. “Talents”

Pictured: The audience’s appropriate response to that last statement.

While in rural Pennsylvania, the kids visit their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) who, at first, seem like regular, kind old folks. However, when the sun goes down, a different side of them emerges… And it’s discovered that Nana and Pop-Pop are completely bananas, even for most people.

Hey, you’d be crazy too if your state was the home of the Phillies. ZING!

I’ll be here all day, folks…

The rise and fall of M. Night Shyamalan has been so well-documented that I probably don’t need to mention it. I will though, because I’m a sadist.

After skyrocketing out of obscurity with the classic thriller The Sixth Sense and following hat up with the great deconstruction of superheroes that is Unbreakable, and fooling everybody into liking the critical and commercial successful crap-fest that is Signs, Shyamalan found himself on shaky ground with the massive cock-tease that is The Village before vomiting out absolute dogshit like Lady in the Water and The Happening. Lessening his tiresome shtick of twists that got less intelligent with each movie, M.Night tried his hand at two mainstream blockbusters: The Last Airbender (Based on one of my favourite TV shows of all time) and the Jaden/Will Smith nepotistic fever dream known as After Earth. Both of them failed miserably critically and commercially, with the former frequently featured on lists of the worst movies of all time. Shyamalan’s propensity for boring, exposition-ridden dialogue, wide-angle shots, pointless, insipid twists, and tendency to to somehow suck the talent and charisma out of supremely talented actors like Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith made him the butt of many jokes told by critics and internet commenters the world over. It didn’t help that Shyami has (Or had) quite the ego, inserting himself into Lady in the Water as a monumentally important writer, and writing a character for the very same movie that is little more than a caricature of a snarky, miserable critic who gets devoured by wolves.

As a snarky, miserable and critical person, I’m very offended by this.

I admit to getting in on the act of hating relentlessly on M.Night for quite a while. For further proof of his, see my angry, incoherent review of After Earth from two-ish years ago (Actually, please don’t). But, now that I’ve blossomed from a misanthropic, untalented and childlike 17-year old into a misanthropic, untalented and childlike 18 3/4-year old, I’ve gained a new perspective on this supremely important issue. While I still think that pretty much every movie that he’s done after Unbreakable is pretty much irredeemable shit, I appreciate that he comes across as someone who really loves his craft and wants to entertain. And with The Visit, Shyamalan seems to be returning to his roots, making a small-budget, semi-satire of horror movies set back in his home state of Pennsylvania.

And it’s not a classic, or anything, but hey, even a merely good movie is a monumental improvement over Airbender and After Earth, so rejoice remaining Shyamalan fans! Your king has taken baby steps towards reclaiming the glory and respectability he enjoyed at the turn of the century!

I found that it greatly increased my enjoyment of the movie when I didn’t think of it so much as a horror movie, but as kind of a dark comedy. Odd that Shyamalan would delve into comedy when his attempts at comic relief in his recent movies are the only parts that DIDN’T leave me laughing hysterically, but there you go.

From what I’ve heard, Shyamalan directed two cuts of The Visit. One of the two is pure horror (Yuck) and the other is pure comedy. Apparently, the finished product is a blend of those two cuts, and in the comedic aspect, it works very well. Not only is the humour very well-written (!!!), Shyamalan also willingly parodies himself, showing that he’s maybe realized some of his mistakes from his past projects…

About. Fucking. Time.

… And his self-critique proves surprisingly effective. The problem with that is that the strength of the comedy actually exposes the weakness of the horror.

Granted, I really fucking hate 99.99% of all horror movies, so maybe I’m not the one whose opinion you should be seeking out  out on this aspect of the movie, but for all the elements of shitty mainstream horror movies that The Visit  does a good job of poking fun at, there are plenty of cliched horror elements that do sneak in that kind of take me out of it. There are plenty of stupid jumpscares to go around, to my chagrin and, to be honest, the horror element was extremely tedious compared to the story progression and the humour. I felt like I had to suffer through the horror (And to be fair, there was a fair bit of good humour injected into the horror) until I could get to the humour.

The combination of black comedy works well enough… Until the climax, when things kind of fall apart, tone-wise. At that point, the horror and comedy go to such opposite extremes that it really is extremely jarring.

And while the writing is good, one must always remember that this is still a post-Unbreakable M.Night Shyamalan script, and while it’s not as off-putting as, say, the script for The Last Airbender, of which I have been known to buy multiple copies of to burn in a bonfire while laughing maniacally and mainling pure ethanol, this one, while solid and frequently clever, does suffer from some noticeable plot holes. Nothing that serious, but definitely a detriment.

That said, there are some legitimately touching moments to be found, and the characters are well-written enough that they don’t need massive amounts of exposition. Not only that, but Shyamalan, who hasn’t exactly built up a reputation for being an actor’s director…

Ahem.

… Gets some pretty great performances out of his actors this time around. The older folks are terrific and suitably creepy, but the chi;d actors are really good. Like, Haley Joel Osment good. Granted, this and The Sixth Sense are very different movies, but… Well, you get the idea.

Olivia DeJonge is awesome as a character who I suspect is supposed to be sort of a parody of Shyamalan, but even better is Ed Oxenbould as the younger brother. I know that I lost most of you when I said that his character is a rapper, an believe me, I get it. It is fairly annoying and cringe-worthy at first, but I figure it’s kind of supposed to be that way. Nobody puts a 13-year old rapper in their movie and expects you to take them seriously. That’d be like the inverse of putting a Holocaust scene in a movie and screaming “LAUGH DAMMIT! WHY WON’T YOU LAUGH!!!” when they won’t stop sobbing.

Overall: The consensus seems to be that this is Shyamalan’s best movie since Signs or The Village. These people are under the mistaken impression that Signs and The Village are actually good. While not a great movie, The Visit is Shyamalan’s best movie since Unbreakable and is an extremely welcome return to form for the much-maligned director, One can only hope that he keeps his second shot at respectability going.

Rating: 7/10

OH, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!

Quote of the Day- May 9, 2015

“What do tigers dream of when they take their little tiger snooze? Do they dream of mauling zebras, or Halle Berry in her Catwoman suit? Don’t you worry your pretty striped head, we’re gonna get you back to Tyson and your cozy tiger bed. And then we’re gonna find our best friend Doug, and then we’re gonna give him a best friend hug. Doug, Doug, oh, Doug, Dougie, Dougie, Doug, Doug! But if he’s been murdered by crystal meth tweakers…..  Well then we’re shit out of luck.”

– Stu Price, The Hangover

The Hangover (2009) Poster

This franchise somehow managed to be both the best and worst thing to happen to Todd Phillips’ career.

St. Vincent (Movie Review)

Seen here: The physical representation of awesomeness.

So, because the Golden Globes are unclear on what exactly a comedy is, St. Vincent got nominated for Best Musical or Comedy instead of, say, Top Five, and I have to review it. Ah, well, once they nominate The Tourist, I suppose every other complaint looks nitpicky by comparison.

St. Vincent

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Produced by: Fred Roos, Jenno Topping, Peter Chernin, Theodore Melfi

Written by: Theodore Melfi

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher

Music by: Theodore Shapiro

Plot: Oliver Bronstein (Jaeden Lieberher) is not having the best of times. His parents have separated, and he has had to move away with his mom (Melissa McCarthy) to Sheepshead Bay, New York, and tries to fit into his new school, always a tough thing to do for a kid. It’s no real cakewalk for his mom either, obviously, who is swamped with her job. So, to help lighten the workload, she hires her retiree neighbour, Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) to babysit him after school. Problem is, Vincent isn’t exactly the best example of a good role model for a 12-year old, being a drunken gambler who seems perpetually grouchy about something or other.

 I really wish I had more to say about St. Vincent, because it is a good movie, but aside from some very good performances from Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, it’s just that. Good. Not great. Not extraordinary in any way, and certainly not original. Just good.

I guess I should start out by complimenting the actors, who seem to be the focus of the majority of the praise directed at this movie, and it’s hard to see why not. The child actor is fine, and heads or tails above most child actors, but he’s not about to pull a Quvenzhané Wallis, as there were some slip-ups from him in the delivery of his lines, but that’s to be expected. You can’t really ask for much more from child actors.

Not every movie can have St. Macauley.

Bill Murray was ideal casting, and he plays his part perfectly in this movie, and I can totally see why he was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Comedic Lead Actor, because he was just the embodiment of this cranky, cantankerous, yet sympathetic old man, even if, again, his character isn’t the most original. However, there is a point in the movie when his character undergoes a very drastic change that Murray performed excellently, and which may have ended up as one of his better performances.

Melissa McCarthy makes up for at least part of Tammy with a solid performance that was much, much more dramatic than one would expect from the lady who helped bring us Bridesmaids. Fine performance, but again, nothing particularly special, although it does give me hope that she can do better stuff than do her worst Will Ferrell impersonation for an hour and a half.

At least I had some semblance of an expectation for The Identity Thief.

Naomi Watts is fine as well, playing Vincent’s Russian prostitute buddy, but it was surprising to me that she got so much critical acclaim, even a nomination for a SAG award for Best Supporting Actress. That’s really stupid. I mean, she was good, yeah, but award-worthy? They couldn’t have maybe given it to Jessica Chastain? Carmen Ejogo?

Skeletor/Margaret Thatcher?

Also, I appreciate that the filmmakers decided against the tiresome trope of having Oliver’s Catholic school be the big baddie through all this. It’s not that I’m Catholic or even religious, it’s just that “Evil orthodox religious schools” are tied with “The government”, the “monolithic, evil corporation” and “environment-destroying, non-redeemable humans” as my least favourite clichéd movie villains.

 Murray’s performance is phenomenal, obviously, but the main beef I have with this movie is that we’ve seen this story before. It’s the black sheep with a heart of gold, of course he’s gonna meet up with a nice yet pitiful kid and teach him something about himself, and of course the little kid is gonna return the favour and get him to open up to human kindness. Even when what I thought would be an earth-shattering event in the story occurred, it didn’t, really. It just kind of kept moving forward in the auto piloted fashion it had started off on.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just been done a million times before, and it’s been done much better. I dunno, it was a good movie, it’s not like I was expecting another Lost in Translation, but it also wasn’t particularly gripping or interesting for me. I can’t think of anything offhand that I disliked about the movie. I like the characters, I like the performances, it was funny when it needed to be, sad when it needed to be. It does everything right, just not particularly well enough to itself particularly memorable, especially among all the other awards contenders. It’s a solid, feel-good movie. Just not necessarily a special one.

Overall: Look, St. Vincent is a good movie. It’s just not a particularly original or exceptional one, apart from Bill Murray’s performance. Will I hold this movie close to my heart? No, but it’s a nice movie to put on if you just need a warm, fuzzy feeling in the cockles of your heart.

These are cockles, by the way. What a stupid expression.

Rating: 7/10