Film review by Claire Durrant of the horror comedy about two children filming a documentary at their estranged grandparent’s house. All appears well until strange occurrences begin to happen after 9:30pm.
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Director: M. Night Shyamalan. Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions.
Cast and Credits
Producer: Marc Bienstock, Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan.
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan.
Camera: Maryse Alberti.
Sets: Naaman Marshall.
Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn.
Rebecca (DeJonge) and Tyler (Oxenbould) decide to visit their distant grandparents for the first time, in hopes to reunite them with their Mother. At first Nana (Dunagan) and Pop Pop (McRobbie) appear to be charming and loving, but soon odd characteristics begin to show in. As Rebecca and Tyler spend more time with them, they begin to discover that Nana and Pop Pop might possess deep, dark secrets.
Poor M. Night Shaymalan, talk about a tough career and peaking too soon. He was once named the next Spielberg after box office hits such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000). Yet what followed was a string of continuously disappointing films. However, recently there have been moments in which we still see glimpses of Shaymalan’s potential. The TV show Wayward Pines (2015) saw a welcome, brief and positive return to his peak filmmaking.
That is why when The Visit was said to be “the return” of Shaymalan, I didn’t roll my eyes and dismiss that statement. So did it disappoint? Yes and no. By no way is it as ground-breaking as his earlier work, but it sure doesn’t make you cringe as much as The Happening (2008).
The film has all the clichés you would expect from a horror film; the isolated house, a mysterious basement, the suspense leading to harmless jump scares, and of course the use of hand-held camera. Most horror films of the past few years have overused these techniques, but still audiences respond to them.
Personally, the “found footage” films have never worked for me. I always thought that although the shaky camera effect added to the atmosphere and aesthetics, it removed a sense of believability. I mean, how egotistical do you have to be to still film yourself running away from the thing trying to kill you? I would either drop the camera in fear and then run or, even better, use the damn thing as a weapon: cameras are heavy! Anyway, if you’re looking for a film with plenty of creepy, horrifying moments, this won’t disappoint.
The acting of the four leads is solid throughout. Dunagan and McRobbie excel in their creepiness. Being warm and caring from one moment to sudden crazed outbursts establishes a strong sense of unease in these characters, especially in Nana’s case. Most of the scares are due to Dunagan’s acting abilities. Her Hansel and Gretel behaviour towards the children is unsettling as she asks Rebecca to climb in her oven. She manically laughs to herself as she rocks vigorously on her rocking chair. All this happens in the daytime, and as the trailer states, she’s a lot worse after 9:30pm. There is never a moment in this film in which you think everything is safe.
Opposite the elderly, are the two child actors. DeJonge is successful at playing both the archetype older sister and ambitious documentarian, but the real talent comes from the youngest actor, Oxenbould who shines in this film as Tyler, a wannabe rapper. Not only does he have the strongest presence, he also brings the comedic side to this film. Early on in, he decides that instead of swearing, he is going to say female singers names. Later when he is scared and murmurs “Katy Perry,” it’s a running joke throughout that actually works. The dynamic between the two siblings is one that is believable. They annoy and love one another as in any sister/brother relationship.
Being a Shaymalan film, you go in thinking there is going to be a twist. With this in mind, it is always fun to make educated guesses as to what it is. For The Visit, the twist is pretty obvious. Well to me it was, my friend says otherwise. The reveal is no “Bruce Willis is a ghost” level of shocking. However, the twist is a nice way to come to the conclusion to the films on-going ambiguity in regards to the grandparents.
By no stretch is this Shaymalan on top form, but there are enough moments to make you scream and/or laugh to make this at least an enjoyable film to watch. You may end up fearing getting older though. In all, I hope The Visit marks the start of M. Night rising from the ashes.
See the official trailer on Youtube.