The Visit marks writer-director M.Night Shyamalan‘s return to the big screen with a genuinely good movie. This is after being responsible for some of the most wretchedly lacklustre big screen attempts in recent memory; After Earth, The Happening and The Last Airbender to name just a few.
This film however packs a punch and perfectly walks the line between being deliciously horrifying and delightfully comical, which, let’s face it, is rare in the horror genre. Every scary scene is shortly followed by lighter subject matter or more humorous banter, making the darker parts all the more entertaining.
It’s also the contrast between the picturesque snowy farm land two children are stuck on with their odd-ball grandparents and the grainy webcam Skype footage that shows them communicating with their mother while she is on a sunny cruise ship holiday, that also makes this film so engaging.
Told from a camera totting kids’ point of view, the film opens up with teen Becca (Olivia DeJonge) as she hopes to film a reunion for a documentary she is planning. Her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) is along for the ride, and at first the tween seemed like he would be the obnoxious annoying younger sibling, but as the story unfolded he proved to be hilarious, honest and was a pivotal part of the mounting fear that grew from scene to scene. Tyler is a serious germophobe and hilarious aspiring rapper who joins his sister on the week long visit to meet their estranged grandparents.
There is a definite element of WTF while watching when you realize that a mother would send her two children off to visit her parents who she hasn’t communicated with for decades without saying a single word to them, but somehow it works.
While watching The Visit one could almost start to predict what twists and typical M.Night Shyamalan turns this story will take, but refreshingly the story unfolds with many surprises in store.
From shockingly seeing Nana in the nude clawing at the walls, the mystery and weirdness gradually builds around her and the near silent grandfather, and the children (and audience) start to question what exactly IS happening in this secluded Pennsylvania farm house. This film is shot mostly from a child’s point of view giving it a more genuine sense of building fear while the kids watch Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) unravel with the passing of nightfall.
There are a lot of horror clichés in The Visit from the cheap gotcha scares, the terrified but shockingly brave children, mysterious sounds and sights in the middle of the night and, of course, the cinematic staple of shitty cellphone reception. That and the fact that this is another hand held footage film do add an element of cheese, but not enough to ruin the movie. The Visit not only pulls off hand held footage filming (just when you thought it couldn’t get any more played out) but director Shyamalan manages to restore the audience’s faith that he hasn’t lost that special touch for combining terrified children and stellar twists and turns into a thrilling style of horror film that is not easily accomplished.
The Visit is the type of film you will be hearing about for weeks and in my opinion, its worth the buzz and is an entertaining ride from start to finish.
-Felicia Mancini, writing for A Girl’s Guide to Horror