Since he captured the public imagination in 1999 with his remarkable breakout hit
The Sixth Sense
, M. Night Shyamalan has directed 10 features (an 11th,
, is due in 2017). And each one, including
Lady in the Water
, and personal favorite
, has received wildly mixed reviews.
Yet Shyamalan, 45, who was born in India, retains a core fanbase in the Philadelphia region where he lives and where he consistently shoots his pictures.
The Visit, which is due Jan. 5, finds Shyamalan taking on a widely popular - and widely overused and abused - horror subgenre, the found-footage flick.
An immensely enjoyable low-budget chiller the director never announced in advance - he shot it in secret - The Visit has Shyamalan returning to the basic principles of thriller and horror filmmaking.
One of the most intelligent and accomplished found-footage pics in years, The Visit stars Olivia DeJonge as a 15-year-old would-be filmmaker and Ed Oxenbould as her sometimes-exasperating little brother who are sent to a lil' Pennsylvania hamlet for a week to stay with their grandparents (Peter McRobbie, Deanna Dungan).
The elderly couple turn out to be a couple of oddballs, to make an understatement. Armed with her camera, Olivia decides to investigate the extent of their freakishness. Oh, boy.
(www.uphe.com; $29.98 DVD; $34.98 Blu-ray; rated PG-13)
Other titles of note
Wolf Totem. Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet, The Bear) pulls out all the stops for this extraordinary epic set during China's Cultural Revolution about two Beijing intellectuals sent to the Mongolian steppe to live and work with nomadic herders in a wild, remote area dominated by wolves. (www.sonypictures.com/movies/discanddigital/; $30.99 DVD; $34.99 Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo; rated PG-13)
Downhill Racer. Available for the first time in high-def Blu-ray, Michael Ritchie's 1969 feature debut stars a gorgeous Robert Redford as an ice-cold Olympic skier from a small Midwestern town who has a monomaniacal, obsessive need to win, to outstrip, and to dominate all his competitors - including his American teammates. He alienates anyone who dares get close, including his coach, brilliantly played by Gene Hackman. (www.criterion.com; $39.95 Blu-ray; rated PG)
The Walk. Director Robert Zemeckis' exciting true-life drama stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, the high-wire artist who walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. It's due Jan. 5. (www.sonypictures.com/movies/discanddigital/; $40.99 Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo; $34.99 Blu-ray; $30.99 DVD; rated PG)
Sicario. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners) corrals a stable of great stars, including Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, and Josh Brolin, in this engaging thriller about the war on drugs as played out in Mexico. It's due Jan. 5 from Lionsgate. (www.lionsgateshop.com; $39.99 Blu-ray/DVD Combo; $29.95 DVD; rated R)
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime. David Walliams and Jessica Raine are brilliant as a hapless but happy-in-love suburban English couple turned international amateur sleuths who are sucked into Cold War espionage. Set in the years following World War II, this is a clever reimagining of the 1980s Christie adaptation, The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries. The two-disc set contains two two-episode mysteries. It's due Jan. 5 from Acorn Media. (www.acornonline.com; $39.99 DVD or Blu-ray; not rated)
Most titles also available for digital download from major retailers.