M. Night Shyamalan has a rather strange filmography. His third feature, The Sixth Sense, brought him a lot of attention. Not only is it a fantastic movie, but it was more than a promising start for his filmography. He followed that up with Unbreakable and Signs. Both were well received. And then who knows what the fuck happened after that. He went on to make some absolute monstrosities, most famously the live action adaptation of The Last Airbender. I was not looking forward to this film after seeing the trailer. It looked like another Shyamalan dud. Boy, was I wrong.
The Visit follows the story of two young siblings, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). Their mum (Kathryn Hahn) has had a rough relationship with her parents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) ever since she moved out at the age of 19. She hasn't spoken to them in 15 years. But her parents contact her online, hoping to finally get a chance to meet their grandkids. Their mum allows it, sending Becca and Tyler off for the week. Becca, being an aspiring filmmaker, decides she wants to document the week, hoping to mend the wounds formed between her mum and her grandma. Not long after arriving, the two of them suspect that something's up. Despite a 9:30 curfew, the two go out and take a look around, and that's where all the fun begins.
Before seeing The Visit, I was honestly worried about his upcoming collaboration with Joaquin Phoenix. I didn't want Phoenix to be in another bad movie. Now, after seeing The Visit, I'm suddenly more interested in that movie than ever before. Shyamalan, give me everything you've got. The Visit, while flawed, is certainly a step in the right direction for his career. It's a tense and atmospheric movie that's actually shot well, despite being found footage. Shyamalan only gives the allusion of found footage to put the film on a lower budget. It's actually shot extremely well, featuring some legitimately creepy imagery.
The film's first two acts are a slow build, raising the stakes, the tension and the elderly nudity levels. I was pleased to see two of those. The first two acts aren't necessarily scary, though. My heart may not have been racing, but I was certainly invested in what was going on. I was curious as to what their grandparents were up to and why they were acting the way they were. Then the third act kicks in, and I was on the edge of my seat. One of the final scenes between Tyler and his grandpa may make you feel more uncomfortable than you'd like to be, but the rest is good old Shyamalan fun. Where's that been the last decade?
The Visit really only has five characters. There are other very minor characters who come and go, some being more important than others, but none stay for more than a couple of minutes. It's really just Tyler, Becca, their mum and their grandparents, and all five give incredible performances. Australian actor Ed Oxenbould is going places in life, and I wouldn't be surprised if Olivia DeJonge was as well. As for the grandparents..... they're absolutely terrifying, the grandma in particular. Their performances are psychotic. You know something's up, but you don't know what. Everything just feels off. Then there's Kathryn Hahn who appears in a few Skype conversations and that's that.
Also surprising is the fact that Shyamalan has incorporated a twisted sense of humour into the film. There are moments where I wanted to laugh, and was on the brink of laughter, but wasn't quite sure if I should or not. But the humour never takes away from the scares. It actually helps to improve them, evening out the tension before providing us with moments where you're not sure if you should keep watching or turn away. And as a matter of fact, my friend did. He refused to watch. The film isn't gory, but it's certainly grotesque, and it's also odd. Very, very odd. There are some things in this film that.... man, I don't even know how to explain what I just watched.
To sum up, The Visit is goofy fun, and certainly a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan. It's a horror movie with a twisted sense of humour and an edge of your seat third act, even if the first two aren't quite as scary as I wanted them to be. YAHTZEE!