‘The Visit’ probably has a big twist, just like these five other movies

10 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Visit’ review: To Grandmother’s haunted house we go.

“If I have a strength as an actress, it’s that I am versatile,” Deanna Dunagan said Tuesday as she prepared to attend the New York premiere of her new film “The Visit.” “Because of that, I’ve gotten to play so many different kinds of roles over the years.” A good example: The Lincoln Park-based actress plays the seemingly sweet but really dark and twisted grandmother in M.A family get-together starts out strange and quickly enters nightmare territory in “The Visit,” a horror-thriller that turns soiled adult diapers into a motif.The start of fall isn’t known for hosting a lot of blue-chip productions, and this weekend is shaping up to be a typically muted start to the season.

My heart sank about five minutes into “The Visit,” when it became clear the entire film was going to be yet another “found footage” movie, seen through the lenses of characters who keep the cameras going even when their lives are in danger. Night Shyamalan – that is, for anyone who sees his career as having gone downhill ever since he scored big with The Sixth Sense in 1999 – The Visit may represent something of a comeback. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” — being released Friday, just weeks before the actress will open in a new Shattered Globe Theatre production of “Marvin’s Room” at Theater Wit here, portraying the totally lovely and funny Aunt Ruth. Night Shyamalan’s horror-thriller ‘The Visit’ casts the elderly in an entirely new light; ‘Perfect Guy’ is the latest African-American film to open at the box office. Come to think of it, given that his last three outings were The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, it would be difficult for anyone not to see it that way.

Perhaps Dunagan’s most acclaimed role was as the diabolical Violet Weston in Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” which the actress played in the original Steppenwolf production — and then on Broadway, earning the Tony Award for best actress in a play. Night Shyamalan’s latest act of penance for that infamous Newsweek cover, and “The Perfect Guy,” a thriller aimed at African-American audiences, will try to breath some life into multiplexes. Not only is it a dubious decision on mom’s part, her failure to do a particular thing any parent would do in that situation is a huge tipoff to a potential BIG TWIST coming late in the story.

Bush was in the White House, Vanessa Carlton was on the radio, and you couldn’t tweet about how cool you thought “Signs” was because Twitter wasn’t even around yet. If nothing else, The Visit brings a touch of originality and freshness to the found-footage horror genre, which Shyamalan takes to as if it’s been his stomping ground for years. My heart sank once again when a precocious, 13-year-old boy with long blond hair and a lisp started rapping, and kept on rapping. (Spoiler alert: The kid raps twice more before we’re released from this ordeal.) “The Visit” has been touted as a comeback for M.

Kathryn Hahn, as the divorced mother of teenage siblings Becca and Tyler, played by Aussie actors Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, left home at 19 to be with an older man and, a conflict and fight having ensued, hasn’t spoken to her parents, played by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie, ever since. Notwithstanding the evidence of Shyamalan’s features since the pitch-perfect “Sixth Sense,” hope endures among fans that lightning will strike twice. Some analysts expect “The Visit,” which has a creepy ad hook depicting what appears to be the most disturbing visit to grandmother’s house ever, to pull ahead and climb higher. Night Shyamalan, who once upon the time was one of the finest young filmmakers in the world, gifting us with original, exciting movies such as “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs” and “Unbreakable.” You know that moment in just about every scary movie when you want to scream at the characters, “JUST GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND RUN”? This is the scariest of those, but I still wouldn’t call it a horror film,” he told Variety. “They are always thrillers. ‘What’s happening to the characters?

Fifteen-year-old budding documentary filmmaker Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her 13-year-old wanna-be rapper brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are going to visit their grandparents, whom they’ve never seen. But the grandparents manage to track her down and request that their grandkids come pay a visit to their Nana and Pop Pop, whom they have never even met.

When you do something he likes, he just giggles.” Dunagan said it is intriguing to her that such a “gentle guy can make films with such dark themes and horror,” though she added that “this movie, to me, is sort of more like a fairy tale, with elements of Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. … After all it does have that fairy tale element from ‘Hansel and Gretel’ with the child getting into the oven,” said Dunagan with a chuckle. In the wake of disastrous recent outings “After Earth” and “The Last Airbender,” that hope takes on a particular fervency with this modestly scaled return to straight-up genre fare. Rosenthal, hopes to repeat the success that other recent African-American movies have enjoyed in recent weeks, namely, N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton and Christian drama War Room. So Mom sends the kids to their grandparents’ isolated farmhouse in the woods in a small Pennsylvania town for a week while she goes on vacation with her new boyfriend.

Excitement will initially drive theatrical business for “The Visit,” as will the lure of sheer horror fun, at least until word-of-mouth stems the box-office tide. The $12 million thriller stars Sanaa Lathan as a successful lobbyist who begins a torrid affair with a charming, dangerous stranger (Michael Ealy) as her former boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) resurfaces. Fifteen-year-old Becca, an aspiring filmmaker who wants to use her skills to solve the mystery of why their mother is estranged from her folks and perhaps mend the family’s fences, brings her cameras along to document their journey, alongside the germaphobic 13-year-old wannabe-rapper, Tyler. She married her high school teacher right after graduation, had a huge fight with her parents and never spoke to them again, and had two children with her husband, who then up and left her and the kids for some girl he met at a Starbucks. Sony insiders say they would be happy with an opening in the low teens, considering Perfect Guy cost less than most Screen Gems titles, or $12 million.

From that point on, the energy, warmth and nuance of her performance is reduced to intermittent Skype sessions — a crucial element to the story, but nonetheless a letdown for the viewer. Maybe that’s why one of her house rules – along with “Have a great time” and “Eat as much as you want” — is that the kids shouldn’t leave their rooms after 9:30 p.m. Writer-producer-director Shyamalan (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water) has some understated thematic fun with the prejudices and antipathies we have about the elderly because we are so creeped out about where we know we’re headed some day, and provides breathing room for the intimate family melodrama that tucks itself into the flashy horror show. Since much of the film is from the viewpoint of her cameras, “The Visit” fits into the tiresome found-footage trend, but Shyamalan, who also wrote the script, unexpectedly injects it all with a wily sense of humor that works. By adopting a pseudo-documentary style, he dials down his usual intensity level and includes enough humor along the way for the film to qualify as a horror comedy.

But there’s more to it than generosity; the camera-wielding siblings, budding auteur Becca in particular, sense an opportunity to make a documentary that uncovers the generational rift between their grandparents and their mother, who left the farm as a teen under circumstances she refuses to discuss. Screen Gems has had luck with this particular launching pad, having debuted “No Good Deed,” a similar “Perils of Pauline” storyline with Idris Elba and a pre-Cookie Taraji P.

Maybe it’s Grandma’s habit of projectile vomiting at night, sitting in a rocking chair facing the wall and cackling wildly or asking Rebecca to crawl inside the oven to give it a good cleaning. They display a very real sense of sibling chemistry and an almost improvisatory sense of comic timing that make their interactions a joy to watch even if what’s going on around them is typical haunted-house stuff.

Unfortunately, the third act doesn’t quite develop into the topper of a climax that the first two acts seem to be nudging us toward, but the humor-and-horror duplex is nonetheless in move-in condition. The thriller, opening in 3,068 theaters, follows the saga of two children who are sent to spend time with their grandparents, only to find evil lurking. There’s another picture hitting theaters that would love to follow “War Room’s” path — “90 Minutes in Heaven.” The story of a man who experiences a brush with the afterlife following a terrible car accident is aiming to attract the same faith-based crowds that transformed “War Room” into a box office success. Likewise, McRobbie (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Dunagan (“Just Like a Woman”) play the grandparents with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek tone without spilling over into overkill.

The result is almost always mechanical rather than exciting or funny, despite the actors’ layered performances — the self-aware kids, Dunagan’s otherworldly weirdness and McRobbie’s unnerving deadpan. Shyamalan is known for his patented twist endings but, thankfully, he seems less concerned about it this time, instead focusing on telling a good, fun story in place of just conjuring a good gimmick. Within what’s essentially a single setting, Shyamalan and Alberti keep things visually diverse but cohesive, while Naaman Marshall’s clean farmhouse interiors avoid the common trap of excessive design.

In limited release, the weekend brings the adventure film “Wolf Totem,” the Jason Sudeikis romantic comedy “Sleeping With Other People” and Richard Gere’s “Time Out of Mind,” a drama about a homeless man. The film, directed by Michael Polish, is based on Don Piper’s biography recounting how he spent 90 minutes in heaven following a horrific car crash. 90 Minutes is the first title from Giving Films, a sister company of Family Christian Stores. The movie isn’t without an emotional core, though: It’s Hahn’s mostly absent character, and although she’s called upon to deliver the heavy-handed moral of the story, she manages to make every moment she’s on the screen ring true.

New offerings at the specialty box office include Oren Moverman’s homeless drama, Time Out of Mind, starring Richard Gere, and Sleeping With Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Olivia DeJonge does capable work as Rebecca, but she’s stuck playing a character that alternates between talking like a pretentious little film student and making incredibly dumb decisions. Ed Oxenbould fares worse playing a kid who’s germaphobic, is prone to literally freezing in place when the pressure’s on, is a terrible rapper — AND thinks it’s funny to say the names of young female pop singers instead of swearing. (“When I stub my toe, I’ll just say ‘Shakira!’ ” he explains to his sister.) The old folks are a hoot, with McRobbie particularly entertaining as Pop-Pop, who has a maniacal interest in playing Yahtzee and claims he’s a Grandmaster at the game.

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