The Visit Proves Shyamalan is Here to Stay
The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth – those films don’t provide a great track record. So when you’ve gone from The Sixth Sense to all of those, most people might think you burned out early. So the thing about Shyamalan, much of his filmography would be enough to be shunned from Hollywood and the cinematic industry, but he has pushed and pushed to be accepted again and again. He’s tried to get back in the good graces of the average film viewer and critic alike, and finally he may have done it with The Visit.
The Visit is a solid horror film with some great scares and excellent acting from the core cast. Usually, this wouldn’t warrant more than a “good job”, but when it comes to Shyamalan and his last decade of film, The Visit feels like a return to a time before Lady in the Water, a refreshing masterpiece from the once great filmmaker. It isn’t quite that, don’t get me wrong, but bare with me here. This film is Shyamalan’s return for a couple reasons. Let’s discuss why.
The Visit was Shyamalan’s chance to sit down and mull over what everyone hated about his recent films, and then capitalize on fixing those issues. He did just that. The acting in The Visit, specifically from the two children, but from the adults as well, is superb. The brother/sister relationship is on the nose and the children carry the film a great distance.
The Visit is a solid horror film with some great scares and excellent acting from the core cast.
The film’s premise is that Becca, played by Olivia DeJonge (The Sisterhood of Night), is making a documentary film for her mother, Kathryn Hahn of Parks and Rec, who has recently been contacted by her parents who wish to meet their grandchildren for the first time. The mother hasn’t spoken to or seen her parents since she was nineteen years old and is unsure of whether or not she wants her children to meet them. She ends up agreeing and Becca and Tyler, played by Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), travel to a small country town to meet their grandparents whom they’ve never seen before. The children are great, their antics and quips with each other bring a humorous undertone to the dark and disturbing foreground of the film. It is through their eyes, or cameras, that we see all the action of the film unfold.
When we first meet the grandparents, played by Deanna Dunagan (Running Scared) and Peter McRobbie (Lincoln), they seem like lovely elderly people looking forward to getting to know their grandchildren. Of course, if you know anything about the film at all, you realize there is an eerie subtlety to their characters that makes you cringe in your seat from the start. The first issue I had with the film was knowing the way Shyamalan works, he is twist-obsessed. He never makes a movie without a twist ending, and while some are great, this can be very maddening at times.I was able to figure out the twist of the film within the first five minutes of dialogue. But in the same way that Tarantino never makes a film that takes place in chronological order, we must accept Shyamalan’s addiction.
*BE WARNED * There are spoilers ahead in this review. If you’d just like to know my final thoughts, skip to the bottom of the review and read the last paragraph and rating, otherwise know the ending of the film is about to be ruined.
...In the same way that Tarantino never makes a film that takes place in chronological order, we must accept Shyamalan’s addiction.
We learn that the grandparents are counselors at a psychiatric ward in their hometown. Knowing Shyamalan’s prior work, and going in having been told that there was (shocker) a twist, I easily figured out that the two people who are at the house aren’t the grandparents, but escaped patients from the psychiatric ward where the grandparents worked. Now, I’ve given this a decent amount of thought and I’m not entirely sure everyone would have been able to figure out the twist as quickly as I had. You’d have to know the director’s work to figure it out. If you’re going into the theater to see a good horror movie and don’t recognize the name attached to the back of the director’s chair, you probably won’t see it coming at all. In fact, some viewers in the theater screamed with surprise upon the reveal.
Now to why The Visit could be Shyamalan’s comeback. The film is solid. Shyamalan does an exemplary job getting terrific performances from the two children as well as the two elderly adults. The four of them make a fantastically fun 94 minute viewing. The documentary style, which has been done to death in recent years, managed to be refreshing in the context of this film. I’ll stand by saying that I believe documentary style filmmaking or “hand-cam” films are best executed in horror films. This one is no different. Putting the audience in the eyes of the characters makes for a scarier and much more intense viewing experience. With that being said, the film capitalized on jump scares and freak outs more than anything else. The jump scare is used aggressively throughout the film, and while it becomes a tad predictable, it isn’t a huge problem for The Visit. I found myself jumping A LOT during this film, which I normally don’t do. Shyamalan’s timing is great for the scares and even when you can feel it’s coming, it only builds the suspense.
Shyamalan’s timing is great for the scares and even when you can feel it’s coming, it only builds the suspense.
The Visit is fun and refreshing, an overall solid horror film from a somewhat discredited director. It’s a good film for the genre, and a great film for Shyamalan. The characters are realistic, fleshed out, and evolve in a great way throughout the film. Everything about the film is good, but that’s it. Nothing about it is great. But like I said, when it comes to a director who hasn’t been able to attach his name to “good” in a long time, it makes the film that much more exciting. If you’re looking for a good movie to get some scares out of you, something eerie that will keep you interested, then The Visit is definitely for you. The 94 minute runtime doesn’t feel too long or too short. In a way, The Visit is everything Goldilocks could hope for. It’s not too bad, it’s not too good. It’s just right.