Directed by M Night Shyamalan
Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan
Review by Jordan
Sitting among a collective of couples at a late night screening of The Visit, I noticed a variety of crowd reactions. As intended, some laughed and gasped in equal measure, while others occupied their time through loud whispering conversations and the occasional bout of snoring.
While I’d normally intently stare at such people who would deny others enjoyment of a good film, in this case I found myself having too much fun to care; I was one of the former who was smiling, laughing and after one particularly shocking jump scare even yelling at the screen in an embarrassingly involuntary fashion. I can recognise the myriad of plot flaws and the occasional comedic situation that doesn’t quite land, but more than that I can appreciate what a good thrill-ride is, and respect a film maker for offering just that.
The Visit follows budding documentarian Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) as they head off to visit their estranged grandparents whom they’ve never met, due to a long standing animosity harboured by their mother. Their trip commences with nervous excitement and a sense of adventure, as they take in the snowy environment and cosy atmosphere of their grandparents homestead, as well as the quirky eccentricities of “Nana” and “Pop Pop” themselves (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie). Nana and Pop Pop are old, as they repeatedly say, and old people sometimes do strange things, like becoming over excited in what would ultimately become a terrifying game of hide and seek and attacking strangers in the street who appear to be watching them. But when the strangeness begins to escalate quickly from there, Becca and budding rap artist Tyler suspect that something might just be very wrong here…
Though it borrows the style as a clever narrative technique, the main influences on Shyamalan appear to be not previous entries in the found footage genre, but rather Grimm’s Fairy Tales, most notably Hansel and Gretel (oversized oven included) and Red Riding Hood. These tales amuse and captivate children because the protagonists perspective in an imagined world mirrors their own, so there is fun to be had, despite the haunting imagery and threatening concepts. At one stage I was convinced of surprisingly bleak conclusion to the mystery presented in this film, only to be presented with another, considerably more fun crescendo that then takes a prolonged moment to convey a traditional moral. This is a rather touching moment that certainly feels a little jarring after the ghoulishness that had preceded it, but it’s inclusion is important if the intended demographic are to take something from this.
In the early 2000’s M Night Shyamalan had established himself as one of the most promising directors in the business, having perfected his own brand of supernatural chiller with a trademark twist, used to best effect in the oft-quoted The Sixth Sense (1999). Fast forward over 10 years and he had made After Earth. The Visit isn’t exactly a return to his career best form; it’s far too slight for that, but it’s refreshing to thoroughly enjoy a title with his name attached to it once more