Few people have had a more roller coaster Hollywood career than M. Night Shyamalan. His first films earned him a ton of praise from enthusiastic critics and moviegoers. But after that he put out a series of true stinkers that threatened to railroad his once promising career. In fact many people wrote Shyamalan off as dead in the water. Yet while he did put out some really bad movies there was always a glimmer of hope that we would once again get a glimpse of the filmmaker we want him to be.
His latest film “The Visit” is another reminder of how effective Shyamalan can be with small-scale focused horror. It follows his familiar formula of slow buildup, slow buildup, big reveal and it does so competently and effectively. As with many of his stories, “The Visit” toys with some of our secret personal fears – twisting, contorting, and amplifying them before our eyes. This time it’s the fear of the elderly and senility.
As the movie started my very first response was a concerned “Oh no”. Shyamalan chose to make this a found footage picture which is a fad I had hoped was finally dead and gone. But Shyamalan is intelligent in his usage of it. He dodges most of the annoyances that come with the found footage style, most notably narrative holes and the constantly moving cameras. We get fluid storytelling and predominately still cameras which are strategically implemented throughout the film.
The story is fairly simple. A single mother named Paula (played by Kathryn Hahn) hasn’t been the same since her husband left her and their two young children years prior. Her documentarian-in-training daughter Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and freestyle rapping young son Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) encourage her to take a cruise with her boyfriend while they go spend the week with their grandparents who they have never met. Here’s the deal, Paula hasn’t spoken to her parents for 15 years following a painful and bitter fight.
This will sound absurd but just go with it. Paula puts her two children on a train to Masonville, Pennsylvania where their grandparents pick them up. Rebecca films the entire thing as a gift to her mom hoping for a possible healing and reconciliation. At the station the kids are greeted by their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) who take them out to their country farmhouse. Everything is documented through Rebecca’s two cameras. Things start well but soon the kids begin noticing weird behavior from their grandparents which gets worse during their week-long stay.
As I mentioned M. Night Shyamalan is known for his slow, methodical buildups and here we get it in the form of creepy moments from the grandparents. Shyamalan takes his time in feeding us these moments and just as the film started to fade for me we get the big twist which I thought worked like a charm. It quickly re-energized the story and made the final act a chilling and eerie ride filled with terrifying unpredictability.
While Shyamalan doesn’t reinvent the wheel with “The Visit”, he does show the creative flourishes that made him a respected name and overnight success in the horror-thriller genre. It also (hopefully) reinvigorates a career that had been written off by many due to four consecutive disappointments. Maybe it’s the smaller budget or maybe it’s the clearer focus. Whatever the case, I can get behind Shyamalan doing these types of projects and hopefully this is the first step in an exciting comeback.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
I think this movie is a fine basic horror movie but I think it got way too much credit for not being bad more than being good. If this was a no name director it would get average grades which it is average generic horror movie IMO. The Gift for example was much better
@ ” I think it got way too much credit for not being bad more than being good” – I TOTALLY agree with that.
Interesting. For me a no-name director could have made it and I would still have had fun with it.
I guess I just didn’t like this one very much although that diaper scene made me gag – which was awkward since I was watching this on a crowded airplane O _ O
HA! Oh wow! I bet you did grab some attention. Barf bag!
It’s even more awkward when I have to hide nudity LOL
Do you think you would give it 4 stars to no name director? I think most people are giving it a higher grade because it isn’t another awful Shyamalan movie. To me it was an average decent horror movie with Shyamalan twist thrown in because he just couldn’t help himself. Ha.
Absolutely would mainly because I don’t have any huge allegiance to any of his films. I mean I liked Signs and The Sixth Sense which had me pretty excited to watch his career moving forward. But to be honest he has made more movies I really dislike than movies I like. After Earth, Airbender, Lady in the Water – all are just dreadful.
That’s really cool. The Visit is way better than those movies that’s for sure! We definitely agree on that.
Those three… My gosh they are terrible. I didn’t hate The Happening as much as most but it wasn’t a good movie either. And I thought The Village was pretty disappointing. He definitely has a number of stinkers on his resume
The Gift is a better movie but I kinda see it as a different genre. I don’t know, I really enjoyed it. I think it does a lot of things well. It starts to lose its steam but I really liked the final twist. It just worked for me.
I saw the twist a mile away. It’s not that I thought it was bad. It’s a decent little horror movie but I just think it is given more credit than it deserves because it isn’t bad. Most reviews talk about a return to form for Shyamalan and I think that’s giving it way too much credit. But then again I’m not as in love with his ‘good’ movies to begin with so I guess that could be part of it.
I never saw it coming so that is probably one reason I had a better response. I’m with you in being hesitant in calling this a true return to form. I’m hoping it is but I do think we need to see more than this to proclaim that.
Great review! I absolutely loved this – and I didn’t see the twist coming at all which made it even better 🙂
Thanks Allie! YES! I think that is what sealed the deal for me. I never saw the twist coming and when it did it REALLY worked.
I will def check out this film now.
Definitely give it a look. I gotta say it was a nice surprise.
I definitely want to see this one. Been so disappointed with M. Night of late that something good from him would be a needed change-up. Fine review, Keith.
Thanks! This was most definitely a nice change. Fun, deliberate story that almost loses you then jars you back into it. Really appreciated that.
Watching it this weekend. I’ll come back and give a thorough read after that.
Oh good! Would love to hear your thoughts. Didn’t seem like many people talked about it when it hit theaters. A fun little horror flick.
I am glad you liked it. I did too. Whatever criticism could be thrown to this film, one cannot deny that twist, it just stays with you.
It really does. That was the cake topper for me. Never saw it coming and found it really worked.
I, too, was pleasantly surprised by this film. It doesn’t reach the heights of his first three (to me, Signs is perfect), but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to what he does next.
I’m with you on Signs. I know Sixth Sense and Unbreakable often get the most love, but I personally love Signs. Great performances and such a wonderful blend of genres.
If it comes on TV, I’ll probably take a look to see if Shyamalan screws up or something. I’m sure it couldn’t be any worse than his last few features and I’m not entirely putting the blame on him for After Earth as I think the fault is more on Will Smith and his no-talent little shit of a son.
I don’t think I would put all of After Earth on him either, but definitely some of it. You are right though, Will and Jaden absolutely stunk that movie up.
YOU THINK I’M A COWARD! I’M NOT A COWARD!!!! Man, that is the kind of performance Razzies are made of.
Ugh! And the fact we remember trash lines like that. But for all the wrong reasons.
I haven’t seen it; many dismissed it–but I liked your review and will give it a go–probably around Halloween! Nice review, Keith.
Thanks Cindy. It is definitely a fun little horror flick. Nothing monumental but really well executed. Hope you’ll write up a review.
Well you have piqued my interest Keith.
Good. Let me know what you think.
I’ll be certain to tell you.
really looking forward to this! I like M Night (his pilot for Wayward Pines was solid) and I feel bad for the guy with his recent flops being almost the death knell of his career, but like you said that glimmer was still there. great write up bro!
Thanks bro. This is a good one for sure. He dials it back and gets away from the bigger budget stuff and it pays off. Lots of fun!
Glad to see you enjoyed this! Keeping my eyes peeled for this one!
It is really fun. Some genuinely creepy sequences and the ending is a hoot. Let me know what you think.
Just came here to see whether this Shymalamadingdong was worth a watch – sounds like it is by all accounts. Haven’t enjoyed anything from M. Night since Unbreakable.
Signs is still my favorite of his but lately he’s done nothing close to that. This is a welcome change. Smaller scale and more focused. That really works. It’s nothing monumental but it is a lot of fun.
Just watched this last week and I thought it was pretty good. Definitely a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan. However, I think more could have been done with this film. I thought there were quite a few horror cliches that could have been avoided. I think this film would have been even better if the comedy side was played on even more. I agree he doesn’t ‘reinvent the wheel’ but I think there is something distinct about this film nevertheless.
Interesting thoughts on the comedy side of it. I’d like to see what it would look like with the comedy side explored more. On the flipside I really liked the tone of the film so I’m not sure if I want it changed. Again, interesting thoughts. You have me thinking.
I think it goes without saying that this was a pretty divisive film and unfortunately I happen to be in the camp that absolutely detests it. Glad to read you had a better time with it.
Much better time I guess. I thought it was a lot of fun. Very simple are far from ground-breaking, but within its small scope I found it to be really entertaining.