M. Night Shyamalyan has had a pretty craptacular decade with a strong of bombs like The Last Airbender and Lady in the Water. He manages to pull himself out of the abyss with The Visit, a very fun take on the found footage genre. Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother John (Ed Oxenbould) are children of a messy divorce who are about to meet their grandparents for the first time. Rebecca decides to make a documentary film about the experience. Their mother (Kathryn Hahn, Anchorman, The D Train) had a bad falling out with her parents over her previous marriage and what happened between them remains a mystery that Rebecca is set on solving. Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie, Netflix’s Daredevil and Law and Order) and Nana (Deanna Dunagan The Big D, House of Cards) seem warm and inviting, but things slowly take a sinister turn as the children’s week long visit goes on.
Since this is a Shyamalyan movie, there is of course a twist near the end that you can kind of see coming but the timing of the reveal is on point. Another “negative” is that the film is shot as a documentary by the children, and since it’s fully edited together we can surmise they live happily ever before we get to the ending. However, not seeing the film because it’s predictable is like not getting on a rollercoaster because you can see where it will stop; the fun is all in the experience. I saw this with a raucous crowd at the budget theater and it reminded me how films and theaters in the 80s used to be. The Visit is pure fun because we all have experiences of staying at our grandparents house, and The Visit turns that relate-able experience on it’s head. There is a nervous/giddy energy to the film that makes you laugh at it, while still feeling ill at ease.
And that is the strongest point about this film. It doesn’t pander to the audience. The audacity of the situation just plays out in front of the camera and it’s simultaneously funny and scary at the same time without trying to force the audience to choose between the two. The Visit has enough faith in the audience to let them decide how they feel about this for themselves (a sharp contrast to the nu-metal aggression of the Saw films which has carried over to other horror films). The only thing that I didn’t like about this film is John’s rapping at various times, it grated on my nerves and reminded me of Macualy Caulkin in that Micheal Jackson video. But this is a horror film aimed the pre-teen Nickoldeon sect and they’ll eat it up. The kid in me loved this movie. Shyamalan has redeemed himself with The Visit.