A young girl (Kristen Cui) and her two dads (Jonathan Groff & Ben Aldridge) are visited at their remote vacation rental by a quartet of religious lunatics (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, Rupert Grint and a career-best Dave Bautista) who ask them to make an impossible sacrifice to prevent what they believe to be the approaching Armageddon. The family’s (and your) certainty that these invaders are no more than oddly rational, armed Jehovah’s Witnesses gradually erodes. Hint: in the Old Testament, these four would be on horses.
M, Night Shyamalan burst on the scene in 1999 with the awesome The Sixth Sense, followed by the slightly less awesome Unbreakable, and continued his gradual slide with Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, After Earth and Split. I remember wondering in print a few years back how he still managed to find financing for these increasingly lame, non-thrilling thrillers.
But this economical, quasi-theological chiller is some welcome news. Though it stops short of what some are calling a “return to form,” for Shyamalan, it is indeed a huge step in the right direction. Okay, the logic-defying premise is impossible to believe, but that’s kind of the point. The doubt and confusion are part of the enjoyment. And the acting, pacing, character development, suspense and camera work are so good that you won’t really think of the film’s many debilitating inconsistencies until long after the credits roll. Maybe the alchemist director has still got it. (100 min)