Director M Night Shyamalan has had a bad couple of years with films; “The Happening” (2008) to “The Last Air Bender” (2010) to “After Earth” ( 2013) being some examples of his lack luster films. Shyamalan has been on a serious losing streak. Needless to say, expectations weren’t too high for his latest endeavor. But in a strange turn of events, (like most of his films) “The Visit” is surprisingly entertaining and heartfelt. A strong balance of comedy is present, which helps pace viewers through the notoriously slow build up scenes all found footage films seem to have. Shyamalan takes an approach that ultimately pays off in the end.
“The Visit”, which is shot in a found footage manner, is a horror movie captured and directed by two siblings taking a trip to their grandparents home in Pennsylvania for a week. Becca (Olivia DeJonge), age 15, is an aspiring documentarian who wants to film their visit, with the hopes of reuniting her single mother with her estranged grandparents. Without any real knowledge of knowing why her mother severed ties with them in the first place, Becca and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) film their “visit” as a way to open a window for closure. Nevertheless, in typical M. Night Shymalan fashion, by the end of the week it becomes much more than that.
The candid camera approach of horror movie narration is getting old, but Shyamalan surprisingly finds a way to keep it fresh through a strong balance of genuine comedy with decent scares. Both siblings steal the show but the grandparents both bring their own distinct eeriness to the forefront. They do so without being blatantly obvious as to which direction of crazy they’re heading for next. The kids get there on Monday and are supposed to stay until Saturday however as the days progress so do their grandparents’ crazy. Pacing wise, it works that it is only six days. The scenes at night are sure to have viewers clenched in their seats as they anxiously await what comes next. Surprisingly, it is the scenes during the day that really steal the show, in terms of reminding you how insane the grandparents can be. Cinematography was beautiful as far as capturing the believability that this is a found footage film. As Becca would say “the mise en scène” was visually captivating. The only confusion within in the film was the random transitional b-roll shots that didn’t quite fit the mold of the direction the movie was headed. There weren’t many instances of this, but it did go against the found footage style of narration it was going for.
Ultimately, by the end of the film, the more jumpy audience members can breath a slight sigh of relief because it never gets as bad as one would think. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially in the genre of horror. The biggest complaint about this film is that it almost feels as though the filmmakers played it too safe. The build up to see just what is wrong with these elderly people is well paced, but the film definitely could have done more with it. Not to say it felt short, but though it calls itself a horror movie, it more closely rides the rails of thriller/suspense. That being said, overall the film does not leave a bad taste in your mouth due to the genuine moments of sentiment it leaves you with as you walk out. Like most M Night Shyamalan films, there is a message he tries to get across by the end of it. To avoid spoiling anything, all you need to know is that it won’t piss you off for once; just wait until you hear the super hot lyricism of T. Diamond Stylus. And for that, “The Visit” earns itself a 3.5/5.