31 Days of Reviews: The Visit (2015)

Two teens catch a train to meet their grandparents for the first time. During the week of their stay, they soon find that Nana and Pop Pop are actually pretty screwed up.

I’ve been extremely excited to see this movie ever since I saw some of the first trailers come out. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, so if you’re one of the people who hates everything he touches, you won’t agree with much in this review. I will remain objective though, I promise.

The Visit is Shyamalan’s lowest budgeted studio film, created with the fees that he earned through his work on After Earth. The director’s reasoning for this was to take back artistic control over his films, which he had lost in several of his recent works. As a fan, it was nice to see his signature style come back through this film. You can always see the themes he uses in his writing (except for The Last Airbender), but when he loses influence in the post production process, these messages aren’t displayed as well.

In addition, this is Shyamalan’s first attempt at a found footage film, and I thought he did a good job with it. My usual complaint with found footage films is that the filming style is too chaotic and shaky, even in cases where the characters are apparently filming with purpose to use the footage in a documentary or something. I’m always flabbergasted, like, you wouldn’t be able to use this footage in a serious film! The Visit handles the found footage sub-genre well by putting the camera in the hands of Becca (Olivia DeJonge) who is trying to make a documentary and sticks to this idea no matter what happens. Even when she hands the camera to her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), the camera work stays professional and doesn’t get too distracting. If the camera work gets shaky, it’s for good reason, and this does happen on two occasions.

As a story, I really like the concept, as I almost always do with Shyamalan films. The film blends horror and comedy in ways that had me both laughing and screaming at the same time. The sister Becca is a documentarian, and she is trying to make her own film about her grandparents and mother in an attempt to reconcile the relationship between them. Her brother Tyler is a goofball, definitely the comic relief of the film. His antics bring light to a story that is actually really twisted and dark. I will admit that, at times, his behavior is annoying. While the main story of The Visit is happening, there is also the underlying drama of these two children who had their father leave them when they were young. Through the film, we see the two of them deal with this in their own individual ways, and ultimately it is their character arc.

Other characters worth noting in The Visit are the mother (Kathryn Hahn) who I thought did a really good job for this type of film. Of course you have Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) who both portray really good creepy, old people. The film would not have been the same without their performances being as they were.

When movies cast teenagers as the main characters, there are always people who say that they hated the movie because the kids were annoying. You can’t get away from that, and of course, this is the case with this movie in a lot of the responses I’m seeing. They complain because Tyler thinks of himself as a rapper (I did mention earlier that he could get annoying) and that Becca is pretentious. I just thought they were kids. I even saw myself and my own younger brother in their relationship.

The movie does have a slow burn, speckled with jump scares and creepy imagery before revealing one of the most screwed up twists of Shyamalan’s career. His characteristic dialogue is present throughout the movie, and so are his themes that tend to see the world through the eyes of children.

Overall, The Visit is a return to the formula of the usual M. Night Shyamalan film. If you don’t like that, don’t see the movie. I personally enjoyed it a lot, and I’ll be purchasing it as soon as it’s released. I’ll have to watch it a couple more times before I’m able to really rank it in accordance with his other films, but I really think this one’s a good one.

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