M. Night Shyamalan's name has been so synonymous with crap over the last decade that it's almost easy to forget that the guy once directed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, two genre-bending classics that revealed a true visionary behind the camera. After Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender, The Happening, and After Earth, I'd all but given up on the former wunderkind. But, I'm happy to report that he has somewhat redeemed himself finally with this weekend's release of his newest film, The Visit. Written, directed and financed by M. Night on his own for a bargain $5 million, the movie was later picked up by super-producer Jason Blum and given a wide theatrical release by Universal. It's making some bank at the box office too.
I'll just come right out and say it, The Visit is his best movie since 2004's The Village. I didn't love that movie, but I liked it enough, and that's kind of how I feel about The Visit. I think it's a largely effective horror-comedy that excellently balances the laughs with the scares. It has a neat little twist (would you expect anything less from M. Night?), and, watching it in a crowded movie theater, you can sense the audience going along for the ride. But, did it have to be found footage?
I often have that thought when I see a found footage movie. In most cases, the found footage trope/conceit/device - let's go with "gimmick" - actively works against the movie at every turn. The filmmakers either do a half-assed attempt at explaining why the found footage exists, abandon the gimmick at random intervals for no reason, or just lean into it without any regard for why characters would continue filming when placed in such perilous situations. It basically just gives the filmmakers an excuse to do shoddy, shaky camera work on the cheap, while ignoring things like composition, lighting, and discernible movement on screen. If you ask me, there's not one found footage movie that wouldn't benefit from avoiding the gimmick.
Yet, despite the inherent limitations that accompany the format, and the glut of found footage horror movies that flood the market every year, there are some films that use the found footage gimmick that are somehow able to succeed. Here are the not-so hateful 8:
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