Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn
Run Time: 94 mins
M. Night Shyamalan has had a very shaky career in the film industry, to put it lightly. He made his mark with ‘The Sixth Sense’ in 1999 which was extremely well-recieved and is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 1990’s – deservedly so. His next two films, ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Signs’ were also well-recieved by critics and audiences alike. 2004’s, ‘The Village’ received mixed reviews. Shyamalan then directed, ‘Lady In The Water’, ‘The Happening’, ‘The Last Airbender’ and ‘After Earth’, the first film being bad then the latter three being embarrassingly bad and his career was effectively ruined. ‘The Visit’ is his latest offering and here he has gone back to basics. He has teamed up with Blumhouse Productions, a micro-budget horror production company behind hits such as ‘Insidious’, ‘Sinister’ and ‘The Purge’ and Shyamalan has financed the film from his own pocket. With a shaky track record on his hands, is this money well spent?
‘The Visit’ lacks in the scares department and its pacing is very uneven but the film boasts some very impressive performances and an extremely well-crafted storyline supplemented with Shyamalan’s signature twist which pays off. The film is a mix of comedy and horror and this combination is pretty balanced although the film isn’t particularly scary as mentioned. It’s very tongue-in-cheek in tone and I watched the entire film with a big grin on my face. Many people were sceptical of the film being shot in the style of a found-footage documentary as this is a very tired concept, here it works very well and the shaky-cam adds to the tension. Not only is ‘The Visit’ Shyamalan’s best film in 15 years, the storyline is one of the most creative concepts in a horror film in a while.
The performances in this film are very, very convincing and the combination of Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould who carry the film have great chemistry with each other. Oxenbould provides much of the comic relief to mostly good effect, but I did cringe at the multiple raps his character does in the film. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie, two actors who have a couple of films on their resume are very sinister in their role as the grandparents and their acting in the climax is top class, particularly McRobbie. Kathryn Hahn is probably the most famous face in the film, but she doesn’t really have a lot to do here but when she is on-screen, she’s fine.
Without spoiling the plot, the plot is very impressive and features an extremely satisfying twist in the film’s final act. The concept of ‘grandparents being old and not-with-it’ is implemented fantastically and will make audiences watch their own elders habits and problems. Shyamalan is famous for adding a twist into his films, but they’ve felt very forced of late and haven’t fitted in with the film but here, the twist is very satisfying and there are a couple of clues scattered around the film foreshadowing it. It elevates the film from being an average horror film to an above average one.
However, the film does run into a lot of problems pacing-wise and the beginning is drawn out and is a little boring. Shyamalan undercooks the scare scenes and the jump scares are shoehorned in most of the time and have no lasting effect. A horror film is designed to be scary and this is where it loses its stars as it really isn’t. It’s a shame because the concept has a lot of scope to have more chilling and tension-filled sequences but unfortunately this just doesn’t happen.
With its flaws aside, ‘The Visit’ is a very good effort by Shyamalan and it boasts some excellent performances with an extremely well-crafted storyline. It’s just a shame the film isn’t nearly as scary as it should be. I hope Shyamalan continues to pick up his feet after a decade of flops and manages to bring back his image of his earlier films. As for ‘The Visit’, it’s a huge step in the right direction and Shyamalan’s should expect to make back a profit with the money that he invested. Money well spent.