Film Review: ‘The Visit’


Credit: NY Times

In a shocking turn of events, a twist worthy of his once beloved reputation, director M. Night Shyamalan has managed to surprise us with what appears to be a surprisingly enjoyable film. After almost a decade of disappointments, attempt after attempt at pretentiously recreating the success that was “The Sixth Sense” (and to some extent, “Signs”), he has managed to bring us a delightfully enjoyable thrill-ride of a production.

Overall, the premise can be boiled down to a fairly simple concept. A pair of quirky teen siblings, Becca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), visit their grandparents, “Nana and Pop Pop” (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie), in a conveniently secluded house, placed reasonably far away from civilization. Trust me, the clichés do not stop there; in fact, you could even say that they do nothing but intensify with every minute. Each “no cell phone reception” and “gotcha” type scares only add to what I am hoping is self-aware charm. And, as you might imagine, this slow paced visit filled with reminiscing and home-baked treats quickly delves into stranger and stranger behaviors from said grandparents. What’s in Pop Pop’s shed? What does Nana do at nighttime? Soon, odd events slowly develop into concerning and, at times, somewhat disturbing (though admittedly, these events are usually accompanied by an attempt at comedic relief). Our duo of insecure teens, each with a classic Shyamalan-style quirk (one is a pretentious movie buff, the other a self proclaimed rapper), attempt to survive the week with their innocence, along with their physical bodies, both hopefully intact.

However, despite some lovely uses of classic horror tropes, one purveying fact still manages to slip through every dark, rusted crack in the creepy manor that is “The Visit:” it has moments of legitimate hilarity. What was advertised as a straight horror film ends up being a wild combination of tense moments and humorous self-awareness. There comes a point in the film where the absurdity of insane grandparents running about reaches a certain peak, and the rest of the film becomes a mixture of jump scares and laughter. The last half hour begins to turn absolutely ridiculous, and in this case, I say “ridiculous” with high praise.

Is it possible that this this is the first step to get Shyamalan back on his career? A nice mixture of scares and comedy, a certain grounded absurdity, overall simple yet effective acting on all parts, writing that’s…. average at best (not bad for a Shyamalan film though, that’s for sure) and overall just an enjoyable ride. But, for better or for worse, I do believe that he may be back on track.

If you’re a fan or either horror or pure absurdity, or if you just want a decent Shyamalan film, then you’re in luck with this piece. And even if none of things interest you, try it out if there’s nothing better in the theatre; you may just be, as you would be with Shyamalan’s earlier work, pleasantly surprised.