Just in Time for Halloween: The Visit (2015) & The Final Girls (2015)

This weekend I felt in the mood for some horror movies so I looked up some recent releases and settled on two to enjoy on a Friday night alone in my apartment in the company of some hot apple cider and pizza.

THE VISIT

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Writer & Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie.

I’m not really sure why people are still letting M. Night Shyamalan make movies. Sure, this recent outing has received some decent reviews, but I wonder if it’s because the movie doesn’t outright suck. Perhaps Shyamalan is being graded on a curve at this point, which for me is the only possible explanation for some of the better things being said about this otherwise tedious and unimaginative film. Like everyone else I was throughly impressed by The Sixth Sense and although I had unfortunately heard what the twist was before I could get to the movie theater, I still enjoyed the experience. Unbreakable and Signs were less enjoyable to me, but they weren’t terrible movies. Based on many discussions it’s clear that I am in the minority about The Village, but I really loved it. At that point I had stopped caring about the Shyamalan twist, for me the film had an amazing cast who acted the hell out of each scene, and the end result was a beautiful movie about the desperation of human nature. The Lady in the Water and The Happening were abysmal. Watching those two movies was akin to a harsh punishment and I cannot believe they ever got released, let alone made. Given how horrific those films were I have skipped the movies the director has made since, and based on word of mouth it appears that I have made the right choice.

The Visit seems like an attempt to right the wrongs of the past few years. The mood is decidedly spookier than most of his recent films and perhaps in the hands of a better writer the film could have actually been better, but since it wasn’t we are left with mostly jump scares, over the top “horrific” scenes, and a twist that I saw coming from miles away and would have a very hard time believing someone could find surprising or fresh. In a few words the plot is quite simple. A single mom (played by Kathryn Hahn) is suddenly contacted by her estranged parents whom want to meet her two children. The kids are eager to visit their grandparents, also in order to allow their mother to enjoy a cruise with her new beau. As soon as the kids arrive they begin to notice that their elderly grandparents act in erratic or bizarre ways, and as the days increase the behavior also escalates. To make matters worse, the entire movie is filmed as a found-footage horror, the cameramen being the two children – it gets annoying rather quickly and the device is as fresh as grandpa’s soiled adult diapers (he suffers from incontinence). The film is not very good and the moral that is provided after the film’s final act is so pretentiously disingenuous that it leaves a really bad taste in the mouths of the audience.

THE FINAL GIRLS

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Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writers: M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Åkerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur.

I usually expect my horror movies to at least attempt to be scary. I know that having seen way too many horror films it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a movie to actually frighten me, but I at least want the attempt to be made. The Final Girls is not at all scary, it doesn’t even try to be. I should hate the movie, right? I actually really enjoyed it, a lot. The movie is creative, fun, different, and takes many chances that all work out. I usually agree, at least in part, with reviewers and many have seen the same charm in this fun flick as I have, and to those that haven’t I must wonder if they were just in a bad mood while watching, because I honestly cannot otherwise comprehend how someone could dislike it.

Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) plays Max, a high schooler who is still mourning the loss of her actress mother (Malin Åkerman) three years after the fatal car accident which Max survived. Max agrees to be the VIP for the screening of her mother’s campy cult eighties horror movie “Camp Bloodbath”. She is accompanied by her best friend, her crush, his ex-girlfriend, and her best friend’s brother, who organized the event. When a fire engulfs the movie theater the gang escapes by cutting into the projector screen and suddenly and magically find themselves in the very same movie they were watching. “Camp Bloodbath” is the over-the-top misfit child of Friday the 13th, with its very own version of Jason Voorhees. The camp counselors (Åkerman, Adam DeVine, and Angela Trimbur) are the extremely horny camp counselors and intended victims of Billy Murphy, the masked killer. It is up to Max and her group of friends to make it to the end of the movie. The sight gags are funny and all land, the movie’s script is fun and keeps things moving at a very nice pace, the self-awareness really works (especially when flashbacks or slow motion are utilized). I am really glad I saw this film, and wish it would receive more attention. I know that I will be recommending it and I do expect that it will eventually become a cult movie, just like “Camp Bloodbath” was.

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