Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Producer: Jason Blum
Runtime: 1 hr. 34 min.
Effectively mixing a Paranormal Activity vibe with the twisty revelation of his earlier films, The Visit is a slightly refreshing return to form for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (who, in my opinion, hasn't made a good film since 2002 with Signs). The film is creepy, cooky, mysterious and...fun.
Having gone in with extremely low expectations given M. Night's 13-year span of shitty film making, The Visit surprised me in that, for the first time in his career, it felt as though Shyamalan allowed another producer of effective thrillers to lend his expertise in making a good motion picture. The mixing of producer Jason Blum's penchant for "found footage/faux documentary" stories with M. Night Shyamalan's touch of humor amidst dread, as well as a twisty ending, lends to The Visit's entertainment value.
Without ruining any part of the story, the initial set up has a mother sending off her two young children to meet their grandparents for the first time. The mother hasn't spoken to her parents in years for secretive reasons. The two kids are making a documentary on the visit, all the while attempting to find out what went wrong years back to where neither their mother nor the grandparents never wanted to speak to each other ever again. That's all you need to know, and the less you know, the more frightened you may be by this film.
One of the the things I've always appreciated about M. Night as a film maker is that he can compose shots extremely well. The visual imagery with the scope of his direction and the blocking of his actors (even with his crappier films) is something to marvel at. The guy must storyboard the shit out of his movies - it's probably the only thing about him that warrants his early-career comparison (at least with his first three films; The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs) to Steven Spielberg.
With The Visit, we are once again introduced (on a much smaller scale) to the early Shyamalan magic; that basic charm that made knowing nothing about his film other than that it will have a twist be the one drawing factor to put your ass in the theater seat. The Visit goes down, in my book, as the second most frightening experience of his work since The Happening, a film that was terrifying with how bad it was (seriously, that film is one of the ten worst movies I've seen in contemporary cinema). The fact that M. Night was able to go from the
The film has a good mix of humor and creepy terror, mainly if you can handle watching a white kid rap (which can be either humorous or horrifying, depending on your comfort level). The film also manages to use creepy body movement as one of its key scaring tactics - a tactic that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up with every moment I see its successful use. Outside of the creepiness, the two kids are engaging characters (who act surprisingly well), and the two grandparent characters (played by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) nail the weirdness factor down to the bone. Shyamalan smartly went with unknowns to play these roles, and his direction under the limited budget really paid off.
The Visit is a fun, short little ride, but is the kind of film you will only care to watch once. The moment the film ends and you experience the twist, there's really no re-watch factor that will make you choose to visit it again in the theaters (unless you take someone new and you want to watch their reaction to incontinence and children being asked to clean inside an oven).