RELEASE DATE: September 11, 2015
STUDIO: Universal Pictures
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA RATING: PG-13
SCREENWRITER: M. Night Shyamalan
STARRING: Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Olivia DeJonge
M. Night Shyamalan, the name sends chills up my spine. Not for the fantastic cinematic works he’s produced in the last few years but, the groan inducing, bore fests he’s become associated with recently. He’s been ridiculed for his ever so obnoxious love for the dumbest plot twists in the world. It’s needless to say that I had more than a few apprehensions about this film. Also the fact that it’s advertised as a horror film also it had another strike against it. But,ever the hopeless optimist I ventured in to the cinemaplex ready for anything.
The premise of this movie is that a woman who has been estranged from her parents since she was 17 is sending her children off to meet their grandparents for the first time. Shortly after they arrive strange things happen and they just have to know what’s really going on with good old Pop Pop and Nana. This movie plays heavily on some of the things we as children thought were creepy about the senior members of our families. The mind slips, the adult diaper usage it was all strange to us as kids and made creepy again by the performances of Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie (Nana and Pop Pop respectively ). They bring a sweetness to the roles that makes the psychosis present in their characters shine in the moments when they’re called upon to freak you out. They never scared me personally but, they brought the neccesary evil (pun intended… that was a pun right ?) to the film. The isolated feeling brought on by the snow covered farm house in the small town they lived on the outskirts of was the real culprit of any anxiety I had as far as the kids being in trouble. Only a few visitors came by during the movie and it seemed as if they had to go out of their way in order to visit the homestead of Pop Pop and Nana. Always felt like if stuff went down the kids would have nowhere close to run for help and that is what was scariest to this reviewer.
Becca and Tyler (the children in the middle of all this) are handled capably by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould. Becca is an amateur film maker that feels that documenting the trip to their grandparents’ home will bring some closure and emotional healing to the two parties. Tyler is a rapper and self proclaimed ladies man. Never quite got why white guys “acting black” (whatever that means) is still or ever was a funny/ relevant thing to add to a script. In 2015 with the success of so many white rappers (Iggy Azalea excluded because I still can’t figure why she changes her voice) why is it still a point of ridicule to be RWC aka Rhyming While Caucasian. Moving on, Tyler is also a rather troubled little boy with a huge phobia of germs and deep seeded abandonment issues. Becca also has self worth issues that Tyler exposes through the use of his camera. In fact, the characters best scenes are when they take a look in to themselves and open up about how much certain events in their lives have affected them. The documentary look of the film brings an intimacy to the events going on and a greater sense of doom to the proceedings. It was a good choice on the part of the director to shoot it that way.
I didn’t enjoy the film as a whole but it was there were parts that I enjoyed about the film. The atmosphere was excellent, the usage of an ending that was easy to see coming, and solid performances from the cast were pluses in my book. The outdated stereotyping of a white kid acting “ethnically confused” (as Becca put it), the hokey jump scares that didn’t work often, the constant scienceing away (see I can make words too suck it Webster’s) of some the creepy stuff that Nana and Pop Pop do (it kills their fright factor to know that it can all be real life regular stuff that happens to people as they age. This is the first tolerable M. Night Shyamalan film in ages and a hopeful return to making decent to great movies.