“Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?”
I’ve always been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s work despite his recent strikes, so The Visit was one of my most anticipated films for this year. I had stayed away from the trailers because I wanted to experience it as fresh as possible. Shyamalan has directed some of my favorite movies (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable) and I even defended The Happening because I found it to be rather hilarious and it worked for me. The Visit has a similar approach in that it balances out the horror aspects of the film with the comedy (some may argue that in The Happening he never intended it to be a comedy but I disagree) although I wouldn’t say it works as well. There are many funny scenes and a few jump scares that work, but overall the film doesn’t seem to do much more than entertain. This is Shyamalan’s lowest budget studio feature film and I think this is the kind of films he needs to be directing (staying away from big Hollywood productions like After Earth or The Last Airbender). Shyamalan has always worked best when he is contained and his films center on a few characters enclosed in a small space. In that way The Visit is a return to form for this talented director, who I’ve never questioned in the past. His decision to make this a found footage film also does wonders for the film, and I usually don’t tend to be a fan of such a style. Everything is executed really well in The Visit and I was so enticed in the story that I was never really trying to discover what the twist would be at the end so when the revelation came I was pleasantly surprised. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to figure out the twist if you were trying to search for it from the first minute, but if like me you simply let yourself enjoy the narrative then you will be pleased with the result. My problem with the film actually has to do with the final execution of the climax once the twist has been revealed. I wasn’t a fan of the ending and that ultimately brought my score down a bit, but I still had a fun time with the movie.
There is a perfectly believable reason why the film is shot in found footage style. Becca (Olivia DeJonge) wants to document her visit to her grandparents house and she gets her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) to help in the process. She is a film fanatic and knows her way around the camera despite her young age. The reason she wants to document the visit is because her mother hasn’t been in contact with them since she ran away from home as a teen. Becca believes she can heal the wounds between her mother (Kathryn Hahn) and her parents if she documents their story. The film takes its time to introduce each character before the grandkids head to meet their grandfathers for the first time. Tyler is very charismatic and loves to rap, while Becca is more of a quiet and studious girl. Their mother has been dealing with depression after her husband abandoned her, but is currently dating someone. After her parents reached out to her via email they ask if she could send the kids to spend a week with them so they can meet. Becca and Tyler both convince their mom to send them to their place, but once they arrive they discover that their grandparents seem to be hiding a secret of their own. Nana (Deanna Dunagan) seems to act in a very strange way once night falls and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) seems to have some issues of his own as he secretly comes in and out of the shed near the home. Of course this awakens the kids’ curiosity and strange things ensue.
Much of why I felt this film worked for me had to do with the cast. Ed Oxenbould, who I really wasn’t a fan of in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, gets to shine in this film. He carries the film for me and delivers much of the needed charm. The comedy is what works best in the film since there are really few scares, although I must admit that I did jump up from my seat a couple of times. Oxenbould was responsible for most of the funny scenes and I don’t think this film could work for anyone if they find his character annoying. DeJonge as the older sister also delivers and is believable in her role although she doesn’t seem to stay out. Deanna Dunagan is the creepiest of the grandparents and she delivers in some rather scary and tense moments. Even though I wasn’t blown away by Peter McRobbie’s performance he is responsible for the funniest scene in the movie which involved him being caught on tape with a shotgun to his mouth and after he immediately realizes it he claims to be cleaning out the gun. These moments of humor are what work best in the film and Oxenbould really delivers in that department with his sharp and witty commentaries. This might not be one of Shyamalan’s best films, but it definitely is an improvement over his recent films. I was really enjoying this film up to the final five minutes where the comedy is pushed aside to build the climactic ending. Other than that I really enjoyed this film and I will continue to look forward to what Shyamalan will be doing next. He seems to be getting back on track and doing what he does best. Here he gets to tackle some of our fears involving old age and health and plays with them in a very inventive way.