Directed and Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Some folk are touting this new film as a return to form for director M. Night Shaymalan after his last few outings which were almost universally slammed. I can’t help but feel that this is most certainly not the case, as the director resorts to found-footage style camerawork for his latest movie. Its sad to look back at how much I enjoyed Signs, Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense.
Quick recap: As the title implies, two children visit their grandparents, who they have never seen. Their mother left home at 19 and hasn’t contacted them since. After a few days things begin to get weird as the kids try to figure out just what is going on. Simple enough, but things get predictable quickly.
Billed as a horror/comedy, I was expecting something along the lines of What We Do In The Shadows or The Voices, two movies that deliver constant laughs while maintaining the framework of a horror movie. Simple concept, and when done right it can be fantastic. This movie gets the formula a little muddled up – the parts that are supposed to be funny are cringe-inducing, whereas the allegedly scary parts aren’t scary at all; in fact, I found myself giggling myself stupid at events that I assume were supposed to inject some sort of foreboding atmosphere into the film. I’m sure I was irritating the hell out of my fellow patrons. Woops.
Not only does it bungle its attempt at a horror/comedy, it plays as a film that shows us exactly how not to make a film. Let me elaborate.
Firstly we have the found-footage style camerawork. Like we didn’t have enough entries into that particular genre, this film takes the concept a step further, which I supposed it should be commended for. Its about the only positive I can draw from this mess. Regardless of this though, we are treated to the standard shaky footage, and when the plot of the film starts going in the direction we all know it will, many opportunities to film the grandparents’ weirdness are missed by the same shaky footage as the character in question runs away. Lord, how much longer will we have to put up with found-footage films?
Secondly, we have the two kids, both of whom are Aussie. This usually gets brownie points from me but it doesn’t here. Why? Because these two kids must be the most irritating child characters I have ever seen. Each scene where the younger brother ‘raps’ (or talks about hip-hop to his ignorant Nanna) is truly cringe-inducing, and the sad thing is these scenes are intended to be funny. In addition to this annoying little git, we have his sister Becca, some sort of film student who is making a documentary of their trip to their grandparents. With the help of her brother, almost the entire film is shot as if it is a documentary. Not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination.
Becca talks about framing shots and how she wants the documentary to look. The problem with this is that she is far from successful, not to mention the fact that good cinematography or not, it hardly matters when almost every shot is shaking. Not to mention the fact that it is hardly immersing to view half decent cinematography via the found footage technique. Like I said, this is almost a lesson on how not to make a movie. Rather than using his knowledge to capture the film, he passes it on to his character, who annoyingly addresses the camera, talking about what she has learned about film. Personally, I’d have much preferred M. Night use this knowledge to film the movie in a more conventional way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous. At least that way it could have looked good. M. Night has tried to be innovative and his movies suffers because of it.
One and a half beers out of a six-pack. This gets half a point for being funny, albeit not in the way that was intended.
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