Mr. Shyamalan…remember him? He really hasn’t gone anywhere, as roughly every two years he directs another movie. But his blockbuster hit days appear to be over, for better or for worse. Honestly, I’ve been lukewarm on him since his first big “splash”. That would be 1999’s “The Sixth Sense”, his third official feature, but easily his most mammoth hit. You know what? It’s overrated. Plus, I had its twist figured out almost immediately–its MAJOR selling point for most folks. The year 2000 brought “Unbreakable”, a lesser, but still substantial box office winner. Seriously underrated, it’s my favorite of M. Night’s films–and I did NOT predict the finale. 2002’s “Signs” raked in a lot of cash, and it’s not bad. But it gets all religious and gushy at points. Scary alien scene though. “The Village” from 2004 was borderline dreadful–but quadrupled its budget. It also sported the most ridiculous and easily detectable “surprise” ending to that point. It’s been downhill ever since.
2006’s “The Lady in the Water”? Awful reviews, barely covered its budget. 2008’s “The Happening”? Even worse notices…but decent coin. “The Last Airbender” arrived in 2010 to absolutely dismal critical support, and returns were minor. Ditto for 2013’s “After Earth”. What happened? Four hits, followed by four flops–where did Shyamalan go wrong? Was it shoddy screenwriting and his increasingly ludicrous trick endings? Inflated budgets invoking inflated ego? Was there simply no “there there” to begin with? I’m undecided, because I enjoyed elements of the initial quartet, while ignoring most of the latter four. In fact, “Unbreakable” is quite fine, and even elegant. Plus, there is some terrific acting in “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs”. But when your studio stops promoting you as the creator of your most recent releases, that’s more than a small hint that they are losing confidence in your drawing power. What to do?
How about going super-low budget, with a B-list cast? That’s what the upcoming “The Visit” is doing, with a reported 5 million dollar production tag, and an array of barely knowns. Can it work? Well, I have to admit, I’m a bit intrigued by the trailer. Plus, I know that M. Night possesses some talent. So, it will be interesting to see if he can actually crank out a new winner after all this time. The odds favor him–“The Visit” cost next to nothing. But will it be any good? Will its reported “twist” be a corker or a groaner. North American audiences nationwide will find out starting September the 11th. “The Visit” stars Kathryn Hahn, Deanna Dugan, and Ed Oxenbould.