Tweetable Takeaway: Though better than M. Night’s movies of late, The Visit doesn’t add anything new to the found footage genre. Tweet
Praising M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie,THE VISIT, is easy to do. After such offerings as Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth, Shyamalan could have filmed a bowl of staples for two hours and achieved the same entertainment value. So being that The Visit has an intriguing premise and contains a few actual scares catapults the film to the top of his latest crop of movies. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good movie; it’s just better by comparison. The Visit doesn’t bring any new to the saturated found footage horror subgenre, nor does the movie sustain itself for its running time.
After leaving home and being estranged from her parents for years, a mother, Paula (Kathryn Hahn) sends her two children, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) to visit their grandparents. She drops them on a train and the kids meet their grandma (Deanna Dunagan) and grandpa (Peter McRobbie). Becca has aspirations to be a documentary filmmaker, and is constantly filming, fulfilling one of the requirements for the found footage genre: Why does the character keep the camera recording all the time?
The movie doesn’t quite answer other crucial questions of the genre: Who edited the footage in the way that it’s presented to the audience? Throughout the film Becca and her brother use two cameras. Ostensibly it’s Becca editing, though there’s plenty of questions of why certain parts are included and others omitted, and who the intended audience of this footage is. At one point, one camera is left behind, begging the question, how was that footage retrieved. Depending on your general nitpickiness of these problems the found footage genre presents will dictate your enjoyment or disdain for the gimmick as put forth in The Visit.
Back to the plot. It’s not long before Nana and Pop Pop start acting weird. Gramps keeps going out to the shed, Grandma runs around the house at night, thumping and scratching walls naked. Becca and Tyler confront each grandparent about these issues, but plausible explanations are given each time. Most have to do with the grandparents aging and becoming senile. The kids buy it and continue to play along, but the audience is too smart to know something else is going on here. As the movie progresses, the events begin to become repetitive.
There’s just not enough going on before the big reveal that sends our characters into the third act. M. Night keeps the weird events coming, but it all feels like stalling before he finally lets in on what’s really happening. And when that twist finally shows up? It makes sense but isn’t terribly revelatory or original. And the events that occur afterward could be plenty meaty with tension, goes by rather quickly, leaving a deflated feeling denouement. Throughout there’s some forced attempts at emotional resonance having the kids talk about their father leaving them. It’s all wrapped up in a neat message at the end, but never feels like a cohesive part of the movie as a whole.
The Visit is billed as a comedy horror, but the comedy mostly consists of the young boy, Tyler, cracking jokes during the movie. The horror is all taken seriously in the context of the film, as well as the plot as a whole. There’s no winking at the camera, there’s only Tyler substituting female pop star names for curse words. There’s this nagging sensation hearing Tyler speak that he doesn’t sound like a real 13-year-old, but rather a 30-year-old adult trapped in a child’s body. None of this is helped by Tyler’s uncanny ability to freestyle rap about any subject with incredible success. Most notably, upside down pineapple cake.
The Visit introduces plenty of creepy moments only to deflate them with a poor joke by Tyler or a cheap jump scare. The found footage concept doesn’t quite work, nor does the forced emotional resonance. This may be M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie in years, but it’s still a far cry from The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. By comparison, this is an upswing in quality, and one can only hope if M. Night continues to get funding for movies, the quality of those movies will maintain the upward direction of quality.
I give The Visit 2 upside down pineapple cakes out of 5
Score: 2 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor