M. Night Shyamalan has had a bit of a rough streak as of late. His cinematic version of The Last Airbender took a fairly revered anime franchise and turned it into a fairly substantial flop. His attempt at cashing in on the drawing power of Will Smith wound up flopping even harder as the advertising, which focused on Smith’s untalented son, wound up flopping just as hard. Throw in a declining quality of work in his last two horror films (The Happening and Lady in the Water) and the once prodigal filmmaker was reduced to someone who was openly laughed at when the phrase “from the twisted mind of M. Night Shyamalan” appeared on screen.
It’s odd that being near mediocrity would almost be a career rebound at this point and that’s what The Visit is. A mediocre PG-13 horror film that has an interesting conceit to it, The Visit was his first profitable film in some time and in comparison to his more recent output can almost be labeled a “return to form.”
The key word there is “almost.”
Most of the story transpires in a rural part of Pennsylvania. Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are spending a week their grandparents, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), so mom (Kathryn Hahn) can go on a cruise with her boyfriend. Her parents haven’t seen her since she eloped with a boyfriend they didn’t like. His abandonment of them has left scars for everyone involved.
Shot in a found footage style, if you’d have told someone at the turn of the century that Shyamalan would’ve turned to a cinematic trick that had run its course well after the fact you wouldn’t have believed it. The film, which is fairly perfunctory for the genre, works on a handful of levels because the director is well versed in the genre. This is about the slow burn and eventual reveal of the time tested twist gimmick that Shyamalan has done so many times before.
Unfortunately the film is stuck between trying to be two things. On the one hand it’s trying to be a satire of the genre, with enough contrivances to make it something closer to A Haunted House than a true member of the found footage genre. That’s the other thing it wants to be; he’s aiming for it to be a great riff on the genre while also trying to be a genuine member of it and fails both ways.
An EPK piece, an alternate ending, some deleted scenes and some photos on the set are included.
Universal presents The Visit . Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn. Run Time: 94 minutes Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: 1.5.16
Tags: Deanna Dunagan, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, M. Night Shyamalan, Olivia DeJonge, Peter McRobbie, the visit