Archive for September, 2015

Trailer Tuesday: The Jungle Book

Posted: September 15, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

Check out the new trailer for Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book

Gut Reaction: A Spoiler-Free Interview on THE VISIT

Posted: September 11, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BMTg3OTM2OTc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjMxNDM0NTE@._V1__SX1394_SY669_Last night I attended the premiere screening of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit. Today, John and I sat down (at our keyboards) for a spoiler-free interview on my gut reaction to the film. I’ll be writing a more thorough review for Reel World Theology soon, so stay tuned over there for further developments.

 

John Perritt: First off, what’s your favorite Shyamalan film?

 

Blaine Grimes: I’m really terrible at naming my favorite films, but I’m gonna have to go with Unbreakable. It’s a really smart take on the superhero movie.

 

JP: What’s your initial impression of The Visit? What did you like? What did you hate?

 

BG: I really disliked The Visit. I think it is definitely one of his weaker films, which is sad; I really wanted it to be good. There are a couple of elements that work really well in the film, though. First, Ed Oxenbould is fantastic. His character is hilarious, and the film’s best moments happen when he is on screen. Second, there are parts of this film that are genuinely spooky, but it’s really difficult to talk about those without spoiling. So I’ll leave it there for now.

I think the main problem with The Visit is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tries to be a comedy-horror-melodrama, but these elements never mesh together in an effective way. There are also several dangling plot devices that are quite annoying.

 

JP: Could you tell you were watching a Shyamalan film? Were many of his previous stylistic/thematic elements present?

 

BG: Well, this certainly isn’t his first terrible film; so some of his recurring issues made an appearance. For instance, I think The Visit lacks some of the Hitchcockian subtlety of his better films. On the other hand, he’s still exploring some of his favorite themes here: family, forgiveness, loss, and grief.

 

JP: How did it differ from his other work?

 

BG: The main way it differs is that I’ve never seen him intentionally play with comedy to this extent. I mean, The Happening is a hilarious movie, but it’s not intended as such. The Visit has some real laugh-out-loud moments. I also think it’s different from his previous work in that I’ve never seen one of his films that is so tonally confused (see earlier question).

 

JP: How would you “fix” the film?

 

BG: That’s a hard question to answer without giving too much away, but I’ll take a stab at it. Really, not much happens in the film. The build is lackluster, and the so-called twist isn’t much of one. I think Shyamalan is trying to play with the idea that normal, everyday life can be frightening, but the bodily humor that is so prevalent throughout the film is a hindrance as far as that goes.

 

JP: Do you think The Visit will help or hurt Shyamalan’s career?

 

BG: Well, there are two parts to my answer. In the short-term, I actually think this film will be fairly successful. I think it’ll find its target audience, and it will probably do quite well at the box office. This will likely lead to more movie deals for Shyamalan. As far as the long-term goes, that remains to be seen; but I will be very surprised if it’s looked upon favorably in the distant future.

 

 

 

 

MV5BMTg3OTM2OTc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjMxNDM0NTE@._V1__SX1394_SY669_M. Night Shyamalan returns to the big screen this week with the found-footage creeper, The Visit; and one question looms large: will The Visit resurrect Shyamalan’s once-promising career? While I suppose that only time will tell, I am—in the meantime—more curious about how Shyamalan’s latest effort will fit into his horror canon that, I contend, embodies its creator’s search for the spiritual and transcendent. Shyamalan is, after all, known for his cameos in his films. And while some chalk this up to the director’s desire to solidify his oft-spoken-of comparisons to Hitchcock (and there may be a certain degree of truth to this claim), I tend to think that there is a sense in which Shyamalan appears in his films precisely because they are already about him, a creative outpouring of his deeply personal investigation of the spiritual and metaphysical realm.

Shyamalan’s horror breakthrough came in 1999 with The Sixth Sense. His remarkable display of cinematic restraint, his refusal to immediately satiate our desires to see the spirits that haunt Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) , made manifest his understanding of the Hitchcokian principle that what is unseen is often more terrifying than the visible. At its core, however, The Sixth Sense is a film obsessed with finding comfort in the fact that loved ones have a life after death.

Signs (2002), which masquerades as an alien-invasion flick, is all about Graham Hess’s (Mel Gibson) crisis of faith that comes about as a result of his wife’s untimely death. It grapples with issues of belief and unbelief in a markedly earnest manner that is so often missing from so-called faith-based films.

The Village (2004) is set in cultic/religious community and explores one woman’s faith and courage in the face of the Hawthornesque deception perpetrated by the town’s leaders. More recently, Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines television show (which was quite good until its disastrous final episode) carries with it an implicit critique of organized religion and a Calvinistic understanding of God. Given the religious nature of Shyamalan’s entires into the genre thus far, it seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that his latest film will revisit (pun intended) many of these themes.

On a larger scale, however, Shyamalan’s cinema shows that Horror is an intrinsically spiritual genre that reveals our deepest fears and longings. Some horror films—slasher flicks, for instance, which have often been read as a conservative reaction to the metaphysical implications of premarital sex—prefer to explore spiritual themes and motifs in a (thinly) veiled manner, while others (see It Follows) are more content to let their inherent religiosity bubble to the surface.[1] The films of M. Night Shyamalan are, in my opinion, firmly grounded in the latter category; and Christians would do well to pay attention.


  1. This statement is somewhat reductionistic. I recognize that horror films are not a monolith, and my goal here isn’t to create a classification system for the genre. My aim here is to illustrate my earlier point about the spiritual nature of horror films.  ↩