Although I haven’t seen some of his most recent work, I have always been a fan M. Night Shyamalan’s older films like The Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable. Even with those great films under his belt, it seems that over the past few years, the writer and director has been getting quite a bit of negative reviews. I don’t know firsthand how his last couple of projects were, but I was certainly excited for his latest, after seeing a myriad of commercials and teasers all over the internet. I am elated to say that The Visit certainly met my expectations, effectively living up to the hype it created months prior.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge), 15 years old, and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), 13, are going to visit their grandparents for the very first time. After a long train ride, they are greeted with open arms by Nana and Pop Pop. It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to notice that their grandparents are exhibiting some extremely strange behavior, causing some alarm and the children to want to end their visit a little early…
While found footage films seem to be everywhere these days, it is a first for prolific writer, director, and producer, M. Night Shyamalan. More of a mockumentary than a found footage film per say, The Visit is technically being shot by aspiring filmmaker, Becca, who happens to be our 15-year-old protagonist. This style of filming happens to be quite fitting for the story-line actually, producing a more personal touch for a film that is essentially about family and the mending of close relationships. It is shot extremely well for a found footage type of movie and doesn’t come off as low-budget or trying to cut any corners just for the sake of ‘authenticity.’
Within the first 15 minutes or so of pressing play, I was already convinced that The Visit featured a talented cast. The two young stars, Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, playing Becca and Tyler respectively, were outstanding from start to finish. I loved them together on screen, as they managed to create a very believable and natural brother/sister dynamic, and the character development created by Shyamalan, coupled with the duo’s acting chops made for a really great experience. I actually became more invested in the characters with each progressing scene, which doesn’t happen very often in the horror genre these days, sadly.
The Australian born youngsters weren’t the only impressive performers that The Visit had to offer, however. Our sweet old Nana and Pop Pop were played by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie, who both did a wonderful job with their respective roles. They were both extremely creepy, for lack of a better term, in their own distinctive ways — McRobbie with a subtle, silent approach and Dunagan with a more in-your-face, screaming, scratching at the walls type of hair-raising. The Visit got extremely eerie a lot sooner than I had anticipated, thanks to the very physical performance by Dunagan, or presumably her stunt double, crawling under the house during an impromptu hide-and-seek game, or her naked paint-scratching sessions, during one of her ‘sundowning’ episodes. Kathryn Hahn was also impressive as the children’s mother. I am used to seeing her in more comedic roles similar to her role as Alice in the hilarious Step Brothers, so it was a nice surprise to see her in a more serious fashion.
Perhaps one of the things that Shyamalan is best known for is his twist endings. While I was trying to figure out all sorts of convoluted possibilities for the climax of The Visit the entire time, I kind of missed the most obvious one, which happened to be what actually is presented to us. While saying that it is ‘obvious’ may sound like a bad thing, I can assure that it is not. The ending is actual deeply rooted in a very real realm of possibility, which further cements the effectiveness of this film. I thought it was a fitting end to a great film and I am happy with the entire production, overall.
I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan and stand firm in my opinion that he is a great filmmaker. No writer or director is going to be able to make films that please everybody 100% of the time, but I appreciate his diversity and his persistence. The Visit proved to be a great film and I am extremely happy to have it in my ever-growing film collection. Included in the Blu-ray home release of the film is a 10 minute behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film. It does a fantastic job of purveying Shyamalan’s passion for filmmaking and gives a very small glimpse into his style of creating, which I found very fascinating.
The Blu-ray also offers an alternate ending, deleted scenes, and a collection of Becca’s photographs from her stay with her grandparents. Be sure to purchase a copy of The Visit on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on Tuesday, January 5th from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
I give this film a Repulsive Rating of 4.5 white rapper freestyles out of 5.