Every once in a while a movie comes along that just leaves me completely at a lose for words. It is a movie were the events are so strange and bizarre that I am literally left without a grade for the movie. It may take me days to figure out what I actually truly thought of the movie. Don’t get me wrong these type of films are never boring nor are they not entertaining, just they are so unspeakably odd that you don’t know if you should recommend it or burn the reel! Crank 2 was one of those films and more recently Spring Breakers. The Visit can now join that list, something director M. Night Shyamalan might actually take as a compliment.
M Night has had a bit of a rough 10 plus years. After the massive success and Best Picture nomination for The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan was sorta held in the spotlight as the next big thing. Unbreakable and Signs seemed to prove that we had indeed found the next Hitchcock. Than came the god awful The Village and everything seemed to fall apart. Lady in the Water, The Happening, the STUNNINGLY awful Last Airbender and After Earth, would follow, which made M Night a critics punching bag, a Razzie favorite and a box office disaster. It seemed like Shyamalan had become the victim of his own hype. He went from the next great horror director, to a Hollywood sell out.
Well I am happy to report that with The Visit Shyamlan has gone back to his roots, stripping away all the Hollywood gloss, picking a relatively unknown cast and a story so strange and twisty that in the wrong hands could have been a complete disaster, the kinda thing that made Shyamalan a house hold name in the first place. It isn’t the perfect film, but it is just the kind of film that is likely to become a cult classic and finally give Shyamalan some positive feedback.
The story focuses on brother and sister pair Tyler and Becca ( Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) who leave their stressed out Mother (Kathryn Hahn) behind to go on a cruise, while they go and visit their Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie). Everything seems to be going perfect, with the kids getting completely spoiled with baked goods by their Grandparents and their Mother clearly having a blast on her vacation.
Nana and Pop Pop seem to happily embrace the children’s talents, Tyler and his love for Hip Hop and Becca’s film making. In fact they even allow Becca to film her experiences on the visit, for a family documentary she is making. The children are having a blast, till Becca’s camera starts to pick up some odd things that start happening and suddenly everything starts to get strange and the kids are not sure they are as safe as they thought.
Shyamalan jumps on the shaky camera phenomenon started by The Blair Witch Project in 99, using Becca’s camera as the primary source of filming for the film, with brief cuts of traditional cinematography sprinkled throughout the film. However unlike in many post Blair Witch films, Night seems to understand the proper way to use this type of filming, to make the movie more effective and scary and not just for show. A fantastic hide and seek scene truly highlights this.
Yet what makes The Visit so damn watchable is the way that Shyamalan builds the tension throughout the relativity short running length, with a serious of bizarre moments that will leave you laughing because you simply can’t believe what you are watching. Make no mistake about it this is a dark comedy, as dark and bleak as it gets! By the end of the film somehow everything has just come together and you are left stunned at how well it worked when you actually think about it.
This is Shyamalan’s best film since Signs and is a step in the right direction for the now disgraced director. Not everything in the film works but what does work, is effective, memorable and funny as hell. It is worth setting aside the impression we have had of Shyamalan over the last decade and take this visit with him back to the dark side.