Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanne Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, and Kathryn Hahn
Synopsis: A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Director M. Night Shyamalan’s name is now a name that you associate with, well, crappy movies. After his great start with films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, his stock dropped a bit after The Village (although I enjoyed it). However, when it was announced that Shyamalan would go back to a smaller budget and the first trailer was released, some were hoping that “twist-ending” director would return to his former form. So, does The Visit bring Shyamalan back to his old form? Or should you make an excuse not to make the trip?
The not-really-found-footage film follows Becca (DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Oxenbould) as they get ready to spend the week with their estranged grandparents in Nana (Dunagan) and Pop Pop (McRobbie) in order to give their mother (Hahn) time with her new boyfriend. Becca also sees this as an opportunity to make a documentary about the strained relationship between her grandparents and her mother. Everything seems fine on the first day, but as the week goes on Becca and Tyler start to notice their grandparents acting weird. Becca and Tyler eventually use their cameras to discover what is really going on.
Like I mentioned earlier, the film is passed off as a found footage film, and while the events are being “filmed” by Becca and Tyler, the actual movie has the events being played like a documentary. Becca is a making the movie for her family and trying to recover whatever she can from the strained relationship between her mother, her grandparents and even themselves. Arguably, this is the best part of the film. The drama of the strained family is what grounds the film and makes the film better. Dare I say, the film, probably, could have worked better as a drama with a mixture of the film’s other aspects.
The family also feels real, which is what makes The Visit more watchable. The back-and-forth between DeJonge and Oxenbould doesn’t feel forced and with their own characteristics and attitudes you get to know them and feel for them, especially when things pick up. Tyler can rap about anything you give him, but also has a thing about germs. While Becca is the more mature and rational as she tells Tyler that their grandparents are just old when they begin to act weird. But, she’s trying to make her documentary as well, so she’ll probably get on some people’s nerves, I know she did for me, but thankfully it was only a few scenes.
I don’t want to get too much into McRobbie’s and Dunagan’s Pop Pop and Nana because it’s a bit in spoiler territory. However, their performances are rather eerie, a bit terrifying, and downright odd. Of course, as the film picks up you’re trying to figure out is going on with them, and I’ll give it to Shyamalan, the twist is something I didn’t suspect. He does try to throw you off and throws a crap load of red-herrings at you. Some will like the twist and some will probably not, I was rather on the fence about it. For the most part, it works more effectively at the moment because it’s jarring and at the point in the film you are invested in the characters, especially Becca and Tyler. However, once you’re out of the film, it is a bit creepy and, but a bit lackluster compared to the other twists in Shyamalan’s films.
The big thing that split me, and I’m sure others as well, is the tone. The Visit is labeled as a comedy horror. While the film was advertised as a horror film, there is little horror in it. Yeah, we’ll get the eventually pop-up scare here and there, but this is really more of a thriller than anything else. When it comes to the comedy part, some of it is cringe-worthy at best. I did laugh genuinely at some of the jokes, but overall the “comedy” falls a bit flat, which doesn’t help and makes the film’s tone indecisive and watching it a bit jarring because one second you’re a bit unnerved and the next you’re laughing or smirking. It does hurt The Visit overall.
All in all, The Visit feels like Shyamalan is coming back to his old form, but still has a bit to shake off. While you’re probably expecting a straightforward horror film, you’re instead given a thriller with comedy bits that don’t always work. However, the best part of The Visit is definitely the dynamic and heart of the family and it’s two young stars in Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould.
3 out of 5