Stars: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Samuel Stricklen, Patch Darragh, Jorge Cordova, Steve Annan, Benjamin Kanes | Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Some would say that the scariest thing you can see in a movie is the name M. Night Shyamalan. It is fair to say that he has had some flops in his time (The Happening) but could The Visit be a return to form? Strangely enough, it may just be… When Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) go to stay at their grandparents house it is fair to say that Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) are strange. Putting it down to old age, the two children try to ignore their eccentricities. As things get weirder though, the two children are about to find out just what the secret is of the grandparents’ house.
A scary movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan is a worrying thing, add the “Found Footage” recording style to that and this film – in theory – is a risk. In fact it would be one you would expect Shyamalan to mess up. What we end up with though is a film that may not be perfect, but is far from being the worst that the director/writer has released on the public.
The Visit works because the director feels like he is fully in control, where in previous movies he tends to have lost it. What we have in this movie is a focused story that pushes us into the position of the two visiting grandchildren and makes us experience the horror through the power of the handheld camera. Through making the perspective of the lens a much more personal feel we tend to see just what strange things are happening.
To help this perspective we also have Becca and Tyler, who are complicated characters with an interesting backstory. With the effects of their father leaving the family they both have certain issues they are dealing with. This leads to Tyler having obsessions with cleanliness and Becca hiding behind the camera. Luckily this gives an excuse for the use of it throughout the film, and allows us to see the horrors from the children’s point of view.
Whether it is the psychotic tendencies of “Pop Pop” or the nocturnal activities of “Nana” there is a feeling of dread that this isn’t going to end well. As expected with a Shyamalan movie there is a twist, and when it comes it actually works quite well. This leads to the real horror of the movie and of course its dramatic conclusion.
Where The Visit doesn’t work is the level of humour that is often forced into the piece. There are certain elements that feel unneeded and at times creates a level of farce surrounding the two old people. Thankfully it doesn’t ruin the full experience, but it does feel that at certain times it is unneeded, especially when it feels like a mockery of the character’s old age.
For the most part though The Visit feels like a fairy-tale story of two children going to live at the old grandparents’ house. With hints at well-known stories we see moments where we expect the children to be stuffed into the cooker, or be victims to the big bad wolf that is “Pop Pop” and this is the fun of the film. The fact that everything is much more simple in the end is almost welcomed by the end of the film because it gives the audience a feeling that Shyamalan has pulled off a good horror film, which is exactly what he needed.
Don’t watch The Visit looking to hate it because you’ll be disappointed. This is a film where M. Night Shyamalan actually manages to deliver some creepy moments, a good twist, and pulls off a good horror experience. What more can we ask for that that?
The Visit is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.