Tag Archives: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit

I’ve seen M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit several times now and it gets funnier with every viewing. Funny in a good way, and scary too as it’s a great little fright flick, but there’s just something about demented old people who aren’t right in the head that shunts the deranged part of my funny bone into overdrive (I must’ve subconsciously picked that up from David Lynch). It’s first and foremost a dark comedy for me, and seems like it wants to be that anyways when you consider how it’s shot, edited and lit, but the horror just happens naturally through this very weird set of circumstances, which I found neat. There’s also an unexpected emotional gravitas running through the plot line, which is impressive when you consider how short and fast paced the film is and that it actually had time to throw some real drama in there. In true Hansel and Gretel allegorical form, a brother (Ed Oxenbould, quite irritating and the only weak link in the cast, especially when he ‘raps’) and sister (Olivia DeJonge, radiating talent both beyond her years and what her character is written as, hope to see more of her) head out into the sticks to visit the grandparents they’ve never met, whilst their single mother (Kathryn Hahn) heads off on a cruise with her beau to be. The kids are at first quite taken with their Nana (Deanna Dunegan) and Pop Pop (Daredevil’s Peter McRobbie), but, as any trailer will show, gradually they start to act in a way that would put the word strange in the understatement zone. There’s something terminally off with these two sweet old codgers, as the kids discover hour by hour of their visit, from Pop Pop hoarding up soiled diapers in the shed to Nana scuttling about the house naked at night like a geriatric Emily Rose. Are they possessed? Dementia ridden? High on bath salts? It’s best you figure out the nasty little surprises of Shyamalan’s narrative for yourself, and squirm at every delicious little bit of unpleasantness along the way. McRobbie and Dunegan offer a staggering number of both bone chilling and riotously funny moments in two performances that they should be proud of, for both scaring our socks off and providing endless off colour comedic moments. Now as for the found footage camera aspect, that’s usually something I hate these days, but given how well it works with the subject matter and tone here, plus how non intrusive it is, I can’t bash it too much. This is a neat little departure for Shyamalan, whose usual somber, bleak and airily atmospheric tone definitely needed a little shaking up, and what better new avenue to explore than darkly comic, hyperactive horror?

-Nate Hill

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense produces the kind of rarely attained fear that we always seek out in this genre, that creeping cold dread that has you clammy and your nerves jagged, where you know you’ll be looking over your shoulder as you walk down the dark hallway to your room later that night. That’s the best kind to me, stemming from well made, atmospheric ghost stories as opposed to all this gore-hound nonsense you see these days (can you believe they’re making another fucking Saw flick? Actually from a dollar sign perspective I can, but still). This one is a veritable haunted house of apparitions and phantasms, all witnessed by a disturbed Haley Joel Osment, who would look even more worried if he could see himself now as a twenty-something walking play-dough potato. He can see dead people, as he intensely whispers to Bruce Willis’s lonely child psychologist in the film’s now showcase moment, and not all of them like to keep their distance. Willis is traumatized from a tragedy years before involving an unstable former patient (Donnie Whalberg), and treads hesitantly with this new kid. A bond is formed, however, and with it comes the desire to help. The frequent paranormal sightings range from grisly, bemusing, shocking, tragic and often downright terrifying, especially one involving a very young, gaunt Mischa Barton invading a couch fort Osment has made to try and get some peace and quiet. The plot is carefully composed and directed by Shyamalan in a magician behind the curtain fashion, the veil gradually drawn with every beat until we’re presented with a staggering twist ending that has become legend since the film’s release back in the days before such a conclusion could be found in every fourth title on the thriller shelf of Blockbuster. Such is the power of storytelling though, and the potency of innovation to inspire others. It’s also great fun to watch the film multiple times and spot the breadcrumb trail of clues leading towards the outcome, clues that you wouldn’t have picked up on before. Along with Barton, who is terrific, there’s nice work from Toni Colette, Trevor Morgan, Kadee Strickland and Olivia Williams as well. You may know the ending even if you haven’t seen the film before, as we do after all live in the age of spoilers, snitches and online hoo-hah, but there’s more to be had than the shock of that, it’s a mesmerizing journey there with a darkly enchanted aura from start to flabbergasting finish. Remains Shyamalan’s best to this day. 

-Nate Hill

The Puppet Master: An Interview with Kevin McTurk by Kent Hill

They say in the film business, never work with children or animals. Of course you may find yourself working with dinosaurs, aliens, lions, beast-people, scrunts, kothogas, ghosts, morlocks, Batman, Spiderman, Hellboy, kaijus, wolfmen, clones, cliffhangers, vampires, giant crocodiles, homicidal maniacs, killer sheep, Predators, cowboys and mysterious brides out to Kill Bill.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But that’s just some of the astounding creations and magnificent beasts that Kevin McTurk has encountered in his eclectic career in the realms of special effects.

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Working under the banners of legends like Stan Winston, Jim Henson and the new titans like Weta Workshop, Kevin has had his hand in erecting and simulating everything from the real world as he has from empires extraordinary. And, while I could have spent the entirety of our chat talking about his adventures working on the countless films, which are favourites of mine, he has in his CV, his impressive effects background is only part of the story.

For Kevin McTurk is a bold and visionary filmmaker in his own right. His puppet films, The Narrative of Victor Karloch, The Mill at Calder’s End and now The (forthcoming) Haunted Swordsman are exercises in capturing a style from a bygone era with modern filmmaking techniques. The results are beautiful, not only in their aesthetic quality, but in the level of excellence from the many different disciplines on display.

There is still time for you to join Kevin in his latest cinematic offering (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935772123/the-haunted-swordsman-a-ghost-story-puppet-film), and to listen in now to the man himself talk about his movies, influences and career.

I give you the talented Mr. McTurk.

Visit Kevin’s website for more: http://www.thespiritcabinet.com/

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M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs 


As much as M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs is a brilliantly structured ScFi suspense yarn that’ll give your ticker a run for it’s money, it’s just as effective as a touching exploration of faith and hopelessness, the warring notions that there is either someone or something out there looking out for us, or more distressingly, there is not. One need only watch Mel Gibson’s staggeringly well pitched performance as a man bereft of belief in anything beyond the tangible to feel as alienated as he and his beloved relatives do when a sneaky, marauding band of extraterrestrials take up residence on their remote farm, leaving vast crop circles all about the place. As a dimly paced, impossibly eerie invasion narrative grips us from the forefront, we’re also somewhat primally aware of the story of a once steadfast man, already ruined by personal tragedy, come apart at the seams and start to lose his last vestige of belief in anything beyond our world. Gibson’s wide eyed desperation is almost scarier than the otherworldly beings themselves, which is saying a lot considering these are some of the most unnerving alien critters ever seen on film. A farm is the perfect oasis of desolation to set these events in, and the nocturnal romps through the corn in search of these beasties will make your heart skip a few hundred beats in apprehension. Gibson abides there with his ex baseball pro bro (Joaquin Phoenix) and two adorably deadpan children (Rory Culkin and a very young Abigail Breslin). There’s a deep sense of coziness that is violently uprooted when these unwanted guests show up, an idyllic tranquility tainted by an unknown element most foul, raising the stakes nicely, leading up to the claustrophobic finale. The proceedings almost have a dream logic to them, as if this whole deal is happening on a plane removed several degrees from ours. Characters interact in peculiar, staccato fashion, certain elements here and there don’t sound or feel like they’re… “real”, for lack of a term that doesn’t exist. Whether by choice or happy accident, Shyamalan unsettles us far beyond being spooked solely by the aliens, who aren’t seen in full till way later in the film anyhow. There’s just a hollowness to Gibson’s plight, a restless gnawing anxiety fighting at the whites of his eyes as he struggles to find the light that has left his path. The ending is a perfectly etched out cap to his arc that sideswipes you with emotional heft you never knew the film had in it, and a thoughtful, planned out story beat that takes some contemplation to fully absorb. On the surface, Shyamalan’s work here is a restless sea, but there be dragons roiling underneath, internal demons that extend farther than the excellent science fiction storyline and touch upon ideas much more disturbing: the endless fear of what comes after death, and who is really out there watching us, besides cornfield dwelling lizard-men. Great stuff. 

-Nate Hill

“I didn’t leave you.” The Hains Report Presents: A review of The Sixth Sense – by Josh Hains

You need not worry, I won’t spoil the ending.

I never knew what happens at the end of The Sixth Sense until either late 2005 or sometime in early 2006. I found out the ending of The Sixth Sense when I was reading an adaptation of the film that I’d found in my high school’s library when I was in my first year. I was 14, and more than a little foolish. I read the first 3 chapters of the book (perhaps a fourth, perhaps even more but I can’t recall), and was then hit with the idea that I had guessed the ending based on what I’d read. I flipped to the end of the book and read the ending, found my guess validated, then placed it back on the shelf and never looked back. Just last year I watched the film for the first time. Oddly enough, despite knowing the ending years prior, I somehow felt a sense of shock wash over me as I watched the scene unfold in front of my eyes. Watching it for a second time over this past weekend, the ending still held the same impact. Proof you can know the ending of a movie and still be surprised by it on more than one occasion.

I observed that The Sixth Sense isn’t much of a thriller it was pitched to audiences as being (not straight horror either), but rather a ghost story where good people fall prey to those who torment them from beyond the grave. The latest victim of ghosts is the young boy Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who claims one night to “see dead people”. Many believe that children are more susceptible to seeing ghostly apparitions than adults, and Cole is no exception, scribbling or screaming the ravings of ghosts he has terrifying eencounters with. I don’t know who’s more afraid, he of the ghosts, or his mother Lynn (Toni Collette) for his safety and mental well being.

Cole’s psychologist becomes Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who we first meet at the start of the film when a former patient shoots Malcolm, then himself. Malcolm seems defeated these days, tired and worn out from work and life in general. His wife Anna (Olivia Williams) doesn’t seem to notice he’s even around, barely utters a word or gives a look in his general direction. Maybe she’s having an affair. Perhaps the trauma from that night was too much to bear for her. Maybe Malcolm was never the same after.

Malcolm seems to approach Cole and his predicament with a “Sure, whatever you say kid” demeanor. It seems fair to me that Malcolm has this attitude, he probably doesn’t believe in ghosts and is just going along with whatever Cole says because he knows he needs guidance, without ever appearing condescending toward him. I doubt I’d believe the root of the issue is ghosts either, just a troubled soul in need of nurturing. Malcolm shares the same perspective, and is more than willing to help where he can. In turn, Cole helps Malcolm a little too, telling him to talk to his wife while she sleeps, because “That’s when she’ll hear you.” I don’t know who my heart bleeds for most.

Haley Joel Osment showed us 18 years ago that he was a force to be reckoned with even as a child. He wasn’t playing the typical child role where you just look cute, act silly for the camera and get your lines out with some amount of authenticity. No, here in the Sixth Sense, he actually has to act, and convincingly plays a good kid plagued by appearances of gruesomely murdered ghosts. When he’s afraid, we believe he is. When he’s sad, our hearts break. Neither he nor Willis overshadow each other, and the two have a chemistry that feels authentic and adds layers to the nature of their relationship.

Bruce Willis is a rare down to earth actor, always wearing his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t over play his hand here, he never gets wild or over the top. Again he’s down to earth, as well as honest and subtle. In my two viewings of the film, I have almost entirely forgotten at various points that the man on screen is in fact Bruce Willis, mostly because he’s not playing the typical Bruce Willis role. Gone is any sense of his star persona or real life personality. He is just Malcolm Crowe, and I believe it. Much of the best acting of Willis’ career can be found split between The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (his second collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan after this film), and oddly enough the best acting I’ve seen from him comes in big reveals toward the end of each film. In the case of Unbreakable, it’s when David Dunn silently reveals to his son that he’s the lone saviour of two kids whose parents were murdered by a local psychopath.

Here in The Sixth Sense, it’s the sequence in which Malcolm comes to truth with some harsh realities, none of which I will spoil here. I’m sure you’re aware of what happens by now, and if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t know the famous ending, I implore you to give it a look, you just might love it. Willis doesn’t dip into manic theatrics or parody when the truth is uncovered (though he easily could have), he remains truthful to the performance he had been giving beforehand and to the character of Malcolm, which helps to ground the movie in a believable reality.

As for that ending itself, it’s one of the few Hollywood twist endings that works, and works well enough 18 years later to be considered one of the true great twist endings in film history. Admittedly, when I read it in that book all those years ago, I was surprised by the boldness of such an ending. It’s not very often a movie ends on such a bold note, in a way that pulls the rug out from underneath you, yet invites you to come back for another visit and see things from a newfound perspective. Maybe you’ll see dead people too.

SPLIT (2016) – A REVIEW BY RYAN MARSHALL

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The cinema of M. Night Shyamalan has always been marked through thick and thin by the embrace of warmth where exploitation and cynicism would simply be an easier alternative. With one foot planted firmly in reality and the other in the prospect of paranormal phenomena (and even more specifically, its application in our daily lives), the Philadelphia native’s latest endeavor is simultaneously a sign of purest artistic reinvigoration and a most welcome return to form; magnificently erratic form at that, and most remarkable of all is how the man who was once dubbed “The Next Spielberg” balances his own conflicting muses amidst the deliberate chaos.

James McAvoy is absolutely intoxicating as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps a trio of teenage girls – Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) – after a particularly awkward birthday party and keeps them confined to a single locked cell underground for some undisclosed higher purpose, revealing more and more about his intentions through his various alter egos – including but not limited to a nine year old boy, an obsessive compulsive psychopath, and a woman with protective instincts not unlike a mother – which are constantly competing against one-another for dominance.

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Due in no small part to the exquisite precision of “It Follows” cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, the walls, floors, closed and opened doors of Kevin’s seedy lair never breathe easy; in fact, they retain an intensely suffocating, sleazy ambience throughout that fits Shyamalan’s intentionally alienated (and perhaps alienating) direction like a glove. The director has always displayed a knack for manipulating the frame in unorthodox ways, and it serves him well for the purpose of immersive claustrophobia.  Even the open air of the outside world feels tainted by palpable pulsating paranoia, as if escapism is utterly inexcusable in this disturbed domain.

A few of the more gleefully over-the-top indulgences in the film’s delightfully demented third act might prove to be slightly problematic, especially in regards to how seriously the connection between mental illness and childhood abuse is treated on a whole, but it makes for an unusually compelling spectacle. Only the final moments, which clumsily attempt to meld the preceding events with the enduring legacy of an earlier Shyamalan joint similarly about harnessing supernatural abilities, feel out of place in an otherwise exceptional example of exercising restraint and boundless, off-kilter ingenuity in equal measures.

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As much as he goes for the jugular when he wants to get weird, it’s Shyamalan’s intuitive empathy that makes his best work utterly unforgettable. “Split” doesn’t claim to have all the answers to some of its bigger problems, and one suspects at times that its tongue may be planted firmly in its cheek, but it nevertheless stands as a satisfying exploration of inhuman actions and their potentially horrific repercussions; a mostly successful attempt to envision “monsters” inherent in our society as something more than that. It’s true that we’ve been here before, and so has M. Night, but what can you say? He’s damn good at what he does and it’s rather exhilarating to see him get in touch with the same unique gifts – as a storyteller, a preserver of perversion and perception alike – that he exhibited at a more tender age and elaborate on them in such a thoroughly satisfying way.