Reel Movie Reviews: The Visit

Posted on October 9, 2015 by Jeremy Branch

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hr 34 min
Score: 6.5/10

The “found footage”, horror-comedy, “The Visit”, is a step in the right direction for director M. Night Shyamalan. His debut, “The Sixth Sense”, was a commercial and critical success that featured a twist-ending that genuinely shocked audiences. In those early days, he was touted as “the Next Spielberg” by Newsweek, and audiences lined-up at the box-offices to see what the next “twist” would be. Moviegoers had come to expect this sort of thing from his movies and began guessing the ending from the opening frames. He was never able to successfully recapture the magic of “The Sixth Sense”, and his films suffered from the rule of diminishing returns. After a series of failures (most notably “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “After Earth”), the future of this once highly revered director was unclear. Within a decade; Shyamalan had went from being “the next Spielberg” to “the new Michael Bay”.
And then the twist.
Using the money that he had made directing “After Earth”, Shyamalan independently financed “The Visit”, unsure if any studio would even be interested in buying it. This was his first foray into the world of “found footage”, (a staple in the world of micro-budget horror) and while he may not have knocked it out of the park; the movie is a solid base hit.
In it: teenage siblings, Rebecca and Tyler, are sent to spend the week with their estranged grandparents; while their mother takes a much needed vacation. While the grandparents seem kind, and sincerely glad to meet their grandchildren for the first time, they also start exhibiting some bizarre behavior after the sun goes down. Rebecca is an aspiring filmmaker who plans to make a documentary of the visit. Her younger brother Tyler is a wannabe rapper, who gleefully freestyles pre-pubescant mysogynism in his rhymes. Both performances are excellent, giving the characters a depth that is lacking in most genre films. The “found footage” gimmick works well with this premise, as everything is shot from the cameras that the children are carrying. Plus, the fact that Rebecca is an aspiring director allows M. Night plenty of opportunities for sly, meta-commentary on the filmmaking process. From framing shots for “dramatic tension”, to the line “no one cares about cinematic standards, this isn’t the 1800’s”, this movie playfully pokes fun at the industry, while allowing casual fans a little insight into the craft.
The siblings start to suspect that there is something not quite right about their grandparents early on, but write it off as being typical old people behavior. As the week goes on, the strange events start escalating, and the kids begin to realize that there is something not quite right about the old couple. To give much more away about the plot would be a disservice to the viewer, but suffice it to say; there is a twist coming.
The grandparents are an interesting mix of comforting and unsettling; creepy and hilarious, and kept me guessing until the end. Are they crazy? Aliens? Possessed? Or just old? The mileage that you get from the scares will vary, but I enjoyed the film as a black-comedy.
“The Visit” plays like an old episode of “The Twilight Zone”, and when it does gleefully show it’s hand, we see a glimpse of the clever mind that created “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable”. While it pales in comparison to his debut film, it absolutely shines compared to the “The Happening” and “Lady in the Water”.
It’s a little early to herald the return of M. Night Shyamalan, but with this movie he has again shown his potential; and this reviewer is eager to see whats next.