The Visit is the latest project from producer M. Night Shyamalan and fans of his are eager to see whether or not this is the comeback they’ve been waiting for. Our short answer is…kinda?
The film, shot in the polarizing found footage style, relies on the disturbing idea that two kids are stuck in a secluded area with two adults, and family members no less, that they can’t, and shouldn’t, trust. It follows a pair of siblings, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), whose mother (Kathryn Hahn) sends them to stay a week with her estranged parents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie), whom the children have never met. When the kids arrive, everything seems fairly normal, aside from the 9:30 curfew, but as the nights go on, Becca and Tyler realize that something is very wrong with their grandparents.
The movie is a fun ride that won’t be winning any Oscars, but is still a welcome addition to the horror genre. There are great leads, both young and old, unexpected jokes and even a little It’s speckled with your usual horror tropes: the aloof parent who doesn’t believe anything is amiss until it’s too late, the angst ridden leads that have to conquer their inner demons in order to conquer their real-life troubles, the jump scares…but Shyamalan adds his own flare to the whole thing that doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching another crappy found footage movie (because let’s be honest, there are tons). This isn’t a blood and guts film, but one that uses suspense and tension to keep audiences hooked, a trait that you can pretty much expect from most of Shyamalan’s thrillers. Don’t be fooled though, there are a couple of moments that will genuinely gross you out.
The one complaint I have about this film is that it’s being touted as a horror-thriller, but watching it really puts you more in the mind of a horror-comedy. There are plenty of moments filled with the dramatic tension and suspense necessary to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats (or with their eyes covered…like me), but based on the trailers alone, I didn’t expect the film to be equally funny. Everything from the personalities of Becca and Taylor to the creepiness that sometimes bordered on zaniness that the old couple exuded kept the dark movie from feeling overpoweringly grim, a direction that the narrative definitely could have taken given the circumstances.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) were excellent as the polar opposite but lovingly close siblings. Olivia did a great job playing up Becca’s maturity and passion for filmmaking without making her come off as an obnoxious know-it-all. Ed’s performance as Tyler, however, was arguably the one that stole the show. First of all, the rapping (yes, rapping) that he did was a riot each time (yes, as in more than one rap) it came up and the sense of fun he brought to the precocious tween made you root for him as opposed to being endlessly annoyed by him.
Deanna Dunagan (Nana) and Peter McRobbie (Pop Pop) were the most unsettling pair of crazy old people I’ve ever seen. Even if you aren’t one of those people who has an irrational fear of the elderly when you go into the film, there’s a decent chance you’ll be one by the time you leave. I don’t even live with old people and I was still a little creeped out thinking that Nana would be at home waiting for me, asking me to get into the oven to clean it.
It’s no secret that Shyamalan has faced his fair share of box office disappointments. Sure, it’s hard to follow up a break-out film like The Sixth Sense, but as his films progressively got bashed by critics and fans, people reached the point of wondering whether or not the director could ever recover. If The Last Airbender caused his career to flatline, The Visit is the defibrillator it needed to be revived. I also feel that whatever he does after this will let us know where he really stands creatively. This movie is NOT The Sixth Sense, but if you go in prepared to enjoy it for what it is, then you won’t be disappointed. If Night does more films in this vein, only with slightly less predictable twists and tropes, we think he’ll be on the road to recovery.
The Visit is now playing in theaters, so be sure to give it a shot if you’re looking for something that will keep you thoroughly creeped out, a little grossed out and completely entertained.
Welcome back Shyamalan.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures