But immediately after The Village, things began to go wrong for M. Night. Lady in the Water had its moments, but also showed signs of a decline into oddity and incoherence. And after that it was all downhill (I give you The Happening, The Last Airbender (!) and After Earth).
Things had reached such a sorry pass that when I learned The Visit (which, from its pre-publicity, had intrigued me) was an M. Night Shyamalan film I was tempted to give it a miss... I'm very glad I didn't and I'm genuinely pleased that this talented writer is back in the game.
The greatest strength of The Visit is that it's funny. Shyamalan seems to have rediscovered his sense of humour. I've heard the movie described as a horror comedy, and that's not far off the mark.
Telling the story of two kids visiting their grandparents, it's another in the "found footage" genre where everything has supposedly been recorded by the participants. This a restrictive convention and The Visit suffers from it a little, but not enough to matter.
It's a chamber piece, with basically four characters, two youngsters and two oldsters. All the parts are beautifully cast, but the kids (played by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) are particularly good — and very likeable (how often do you say that about children in a movie?). This had the considerable bonus of me actually caring about their fate.
Like The Sixth Sense and The Village, The Visit has a huge built-in twist. Like The Sixth Sense (and very much unlike The Village) you can see it coming a mile off. But that doesn't matter. This movie is great, scary fun.
I enjoyed The Visit a lot and commend it to you, especially if like me you had lost faith in M. Night Shyamalan. Welcome back, Night.
(Image credits: the posters, a sparse handful, are all from the reliable Imp Awards.)