Does Jason Blum have a well-thumbed copy of Moneyball on his bedside table? Much like the subject of that book—Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane—the wildly successful Blumhouse Productions founder has made it his business to track down talented folks whose skills can be secured at a comparatively low price. For the most part, Blum has done so by working with filmmakers who are at the start of their careers, like Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), James DeMonaco (The Purge), and Joel Edgerton, who wrote and directed this summer’s utterly gripping The Gift. But the producer has also wisely chosen to collaborate with auteurs who are not as hot as they once were. That group includes Scott Derrickson, who revitalized his career with the Blumhouse-produced Sinister following the box office failure of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and now The Visit director M. Night Shyamalan, Hollywood’s onetime wonder boy, who is in desperate need of a hit after a string of clunkers stretching back to 2006’s Lady in the Water.
Essentially a contemporary found-footage retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, Shyamalan’s 11th film stars Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould as a pair of siblings who are packed off by Mom (Kathryn Hahn) to spend a week with their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie). Pretty soon it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong, as DeJonge’s teenage documentarian uses her camera to catch “Nana” behaving oddly at night while Oxenbould’s character stumbles upon “Pop Pop” jamming a gun in his mouth. What the hell is going on? To further elaborate would be to spoil the very Shyamalan-esque third-act twist in the film, which the director also wrote. Suffice to say that the result is an effective scare machine and a semi-return to form for its creator. Certainly, this is the first Shyamalan movie in a long time that viewers may be tempted to re-visit just to see how he pulls off his magic trick. B