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Review: THE VISIT/THE GREEN INFERNO

uniUniversal is giving horror fans a double shot of Blumhouse horror, with today’s release of M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy as hell POV film, THE VISIT, as well as Eli Roth’s cannibal horror homage, THE GREEN INFERNO. How do these two films and their DVD/Bluray releases fare for their respective directors? Quite antithetically, with the former being a return to form and a high point for its filmmaker and the latter marking yet another downer of an experience. For a full look at each release, read on!

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THE VISIT (M. Night Shyamalan)

Most definitely one of the biggest surprise hits of 2015, THE VISIT marks a complete return to form for THE SIXTH SENSE/SIGNS filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. Gone are the escalating price tags that Shyamalan relied so heavily on following the success of his “I see dead people” breakout hit. What we’re given with this film is a heartfelt story of coming to terms with the absence of a parent and the pain/anger that comes with that, mixed with a plot that is both terrifying and humorous at the same time.

What makes the film so effective, is the realness and chemistry between its two protagonists. There’s a sense of wonder and curiosity that comes with the story of a mother sending her two children,  Becca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), to visit her longtime estranged parents for the first time. Becca wants to make a documentary about the grandparents and the events that led to her mother leaving their house as a young adult. The young girl’s desire to film various things serves the film’s purpose and never feels like your typical found footage fare. Scenes detailing their trek to their grandparents’ house are given to us, filled with everything from questions to each other regarding their absent father to Tyler’s dreams of being a rapper (Oxenbould steals the film and every scene he has freestyle rapping will make you laugh until your sides hurt) are on full display, allowing you to fall in love with the film’s characters before any real danger comes their way.

When the young duo reach their “Nana and Pop Pop” (two excellent performances from Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) they’re relieved, with Becca thinking her filming and asking questions will help mend the distance and wedge between her mother and them. All is well at first, with the kids loving their grandparents and enjoying normal children activities, but little by little the film’s puzzles fall into place and the kids are left to wonder in disbelief, when the two grandparents begin to act very stranger.

Very much a suspenseful horror film with an excellent setup and a home run for a second half, THE VISIT shows what happens when Shyamalan is without tons of money and is able to fall back in love with personal stories. The filmmaker might not have lived the situations that he puts his characters in per se, but it feels like a film that is close to his heart, showing us once again how talented the director is when he’s left with just a small film that relies on characters development, great scares and good performances. DeJonge and Oxenbould breathe life into Becca and Tyler and it feels like we’re watching kids that we might have hung out with growing up, making the film even more effective than it already was. We care about the kids, so when they begin to suspect that Nana and Pop Pop aren’t acting normal (a hide and seek game under the house is absolutely terrifying), we care about the kids making it out alive.

It’s a solid example of creating moments, easing the audience into the situation and scaring the complete crap out of them, something that was so special about Shyamalan’s early films. He’s rejuvenated with the film, showing how great of a storyteller he can be, given a smaller film where it’s not all about special effects or out of this world plots. A complete return to form.

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THE GREEN INFERNO (Eli Roth)

Watching Eli Roth’s films is kind of like that wife who gets abused by her husband, yet continually comes back, due to the relationship being good at one point. CABIN FEVER showed how the director at his best, and though the HOSTEL films are somewhat entertaining, the bro-horror approach to them was already getting old by the time they were released.  Roth’s obsession with the works of Deodato is well known, and it was only a matter of time before we’d get a Roth homage to all things cannibal. Unfortunately for us, the result of that obsession comes in the form of THE GREEN INFERNO, a film that features quite the impressive gore, but lacks any heart or soul.

Wanting to actually make a difference instead of being a typical social media protester, Lorenza Izzo’s Justin character is one that has a desire to make changes in the world. Joining a group of other students wanting to help the rainforest, Justine and Co. are excited to do something, but a scary plane crash later, the remaining members of the group (including a good performance from MACHETE/Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN‘s Daryl Sabara) are taken by native cannibals, making way for quite the large of gory violence in the film’s second half.

THE GREEN INFERNO is a film that’s very unfortunate, due to the fact that it LOOKS good and has good performances from everybody involved, but lacks a decent script that would make you care about any of them. Sure, it can be argued that CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST suffered from the same thing, and yes, that film is very much based on making you want to vomit, but the lack of character development in Roth’s film makes it unbearable at times. It’s a classic case of good actors doing their best in a movie that’s not very good. You want to root for the film’s protagonists, but ultimately can’t bring yourself to be on board with the film and what it’s trying to convey. There’s only so many times you can see limbs ripped off, ribcages opened, and people crapping their pants, before deciding to tap out, not because of the violence, but because of the immaturity of the film.