Recently I had a chance to watch The Visit, since, you know, it got released, and even though it got a terrible write up here on Third Act (not by me I would like to add), I thought it was a very solid horror / thriller. My opinion seems to be in the majority (for once), with about two-thirds of people thinking the film is good. It’s at 63% critics and 66% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing this article, so not amazing, but pretty decent. Like a lot of people, my initial thought was ‘isn’t it nice to see M. Night Shyamalan back on form?’, but then I got thinking. Has he ever really been bad?
Yes is the answer most people would give, and an argument can definitely be made for that point of view, but I’m not so sure, which is probably obvious considering I’m writing this article. So I’m going to make my way through his filmography (lingering in The Sixth Sense, and giving The Happening the bums rush), and trying to make a solid case while asking, has M. Night Shyamalan always been good?
Ok, this is going to be an easy start. The Sixth Sense, while technically not the first film he directed, it is credited with bringing him into the main stream. There’s not a lot I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said. It’s fantastic, wonderfully written and directed, brilliantly acted (I’m looking at you Haley Joel Osment), and with one of the most famous and best twists of all time. NEXT! Oh wait, before I move on properly, Shyamalan also wrote Stuart Little. So that’s a thing.
Next up is Unbreakable, my personal favourite of his films. His love for comic book heroes is obvious here, and once again it’s got an excellent script, it’s directed beautifully, and Bruce Willis has rarely been better than he is in Shyamalan’s films. Oh, also, what a twist! NEXT!
Signs, an excellent horror film that is slightly let down by the ending. But… isn’t that most horror films? Even some of the best films in this genre like Alien and The Thing lose a little bit of tension when you finally get a good look at the monster / creature / evil thing. So once again Shyamalan did everything very well, in other words, the writing and directing is spot on. He’s directed the actors well, and the tension and pacing are flawless. NEXT!
So, this is where things get a little bit more difficult for me, and easier for da h8ers. The Village. I personally really like this film, but I understand why other people don’t. This is a beautifully shot film, with an excellent score. It has some scary moments, but more than that it’s an interesting and unique story (once again with an excellent twist). The reason I believe people didn’t like this film is that it wasn’t a horror film. Shyamalan himself has said that the biggest regret of his career was the marketing campaign for The Village. Yes, there are some scary moments as I said, but that’s really not what this film is about, and that’s why so many people were disappointed with this film. If nothing else, this film is well made, and has some great moments. Oh, also, great twist, no matter what you think about the rest of the film, that can’t be denied, although I’m sure some people will. Next?
Ok… Lady in the Water. I didn’t initially watch this film when it came out, although I can’t remember why. In fact I only watched it for the first time a few days ago, when preparing for this article (watching films = research?). Once again, I completely understand why people didn’t like this film. It is a little bit, for want of a better word, ridiculous. You really have to buy into the premise if you’re going to enjoy this film, and lucky for me, I did. That being said, it is in no way what I was expecting, and I can only imagine how some people felt when they first saw this film, considering the marketing. There’s that word again. Marketing. The trailers for this film once again presented it as a horror film, and like The Village, there are a couple of tense moments, but this is not a horror film. This is a modern-day fairy tale, and it’s unique and interesting, and if you buy into the premise, it’s certainly worth a watch. Next.
Ok. Right. The Happening. This… is bad. The actual premise has some merit, but it’s not a good film. I would mainly point to the acting, while Mark Wahlberg is capable of giving a good performance, this isn’t one of them, and Zooey Deschanel is just awful. I’m not going to defend it, because It would be a waste of everybody’s time. You know what else I’m not going to defend? The Last Airbender. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one? I haven’t seen it. This is considered by many people to be one of the worst films ever made, and while the trailer has some cool visuals, it says a lot that five years after release I still have no interest in watching it, but some in avoiding it. The only thing I can say to both of these films is that everybody who’s been working for long enough in the film industry has made something bad at some point. Perhaps they’re not quite as bad as either of these films, but still, anything can be forgiven if there’s enough good to counteract it. Next…
Oh wait, something happened here. Shyamalan wrote a great little thriller called Devil, that barely anybody saw. Like his early films, it’s wonderfully written, and has some great ideas, and, you guessed it, a twist! He didn’t direct it, which is the only reason people didn’t give him credit for it, but he really does deserve some.
After Earth is certainly a film. Critics called it ‘100 minutes long’ and ‘theatrically released’. But you know what, After Earth has some cool moments. It’s not great, but I think there’s another reason for that. This was notoriously a vanity project made by Will Smith to give his son, Jaden Smith a starring role in a big film. Because of this, it’s been reported that Shyamalan basically did nothing on the set of this film, while Will Smith brough him in simply to be the fall guy if the film was a failure, which it was. Well, it certainly worked, so well done Mr. Smith. Maybe he deserves some of the blame, but certainly not as much as he got.
Now onto The Visit. Once again, I’m aware this film got a bad review on this very website, but I had nothing to do with it. I thought this was a pretty good film, possibly the best horror film to come out his year so far. A lot of people have said ‘it’s Shyamalan’s return to form’, and that’s kind of right, but I don’t think his poor streak is quite as bad as people say. I’m not really expecting a lot of people to agree with me, but at least it’s something to think about, that maybe he’s not entirely to blame for his ‘terrible’ streak of films, and the ones he is responsible for, maybe they’re not as bad as you think.
What do you think about M. Night Shyamalan? Did you enjoy The Visit? Share any thoughts in the comments.
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