After M. Night Shyamalan’s 4 year stint in the adventure/sci-fi realm, he’s finally making his return to horror with an unexpected entry into the found footage subgenre. Interestingly enough, The Visit is officially listed as a horror/comedy. And while that may seem like an erroneous categorization, I’m here to tell you; it fits like a glove.
The film follows two young siblings. The eldest, Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge), is an aspiring filmmaker that has set out to create a documentary detailing their first encounter with their grandparents. Joining her is her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). He’s very small, fairly hilarious, and an absolutely accurate representation of today’s pre-teens. Trust me, I have one. This brother/sister combo couldn’t possibly have less in common, but they aren’t dysfunctional. They love each other, and that’s a nice change of pace. Once Rebecca and Tyler arrive at their grandparents house for a week-long stay, things get weird. Nana is butt-naked and scratching walls, Pop-Pop is hoarding shitty diapers, and both of them seem to be completely detached from reality. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie both turn in awkward and creepy performances that consistently shine throughout the film. It wouldn’t be the same without them… but let’s talk about that horror/comedy label.
I’ve gotta be honest – the first 30 or 45 minutes of the film had me worried and slightly disappointed. Not because it’s bad in any way, but because i wasn’t expecting the level of “cute” that the film would be focusing on. The various jokes and gags fit and feel like they belong in this universe, but I wasn’t expecting them. Going in with a better set of expectations than I did will likely improve your experience in the film’s first act. It’s quite enjoyable, just not “scary”. That being said, M. Night Shyamalan once again proves that he is a master at crafting a mysterious story line. Wild ideas, guesses, and accusations were constantly flowing through my mind throughout the film. You know something isn’t quite right with Nana and Pop-Pop, but you’re never given enough information to make any sort of informed hypothesis… or are you? The Visit is a success as both a comedy and a story, but how does it fare as a horror film? Well, that’s where it gets tricky for me.
The performances of the grandparents do an excellent job of creating an awkward, but not necessarily scary, backdrop. It’s not helped by the fact that any time the tension reaches a point of immersion, it’s generally broken by a comedic one-liner from our youngest sibling. Again, the kid is funny, but this can really kill the mood if you’re not among a respectful audience. No worries, though. Once things get off the ground, we’re given some genuinely creepy scenarios along with a handful of truly frightening events. There comes a time when the jokes stop, and the gloves come off. In classic Shyamalan fashion, this leads to a finale that is both shocking and satisfying. Every passing character or side-eyed comment matters, so pay attention if you want the most fulfilling experience.
So should you plan a visit to your local cinema on September 11th? Absolutely. Go solo, or take your significant other. Hell, you can even take the kids to this one if that’s something you’re into. The Visit is a dark, twisted, and unsettling story wrapped in the safety of comedic characters. In hindsight, it’s an incredibly well balanced film that can be enjoyed by moviegoers of all walks. Buy your tickets, I doubt you’ll regret it.
The Visit [Review]