'The Visit' Review: There's Something About Pop Pop and Nana
M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit wasn't quite what I expected as I entered the theater, but it was a delightfully twisted, bizarre, and surprisingly touching horror movie that maintained an off kilter feeling for the whole ride. Of course, the Shyamalan saga is well known, with his rapid rise to success, followed by a series of critical bombs. He did have a hand in the recent mini-series, Wayward Pines, which I found pretty interesting, so I was eager to see if he had recaptured some of his former glory with The Visit.
The Visit follows two young children visiting their estranged grandparents for the first time. The children, Rebecca and Tyler, played by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould respectively, are fully formed characters dealing with the loss of their father (he left the family) and coping in their own unique ways. Rebecca is an aspiring director and is filming the whole trip as a gift to her mother, while Tyler is a wannabe rapper (given several hilarious sequences) with germophobia. They are such divergent characters, but are completely three-dimensional people, unlike the usual caricatures that litter horror films. Their decisions makes sense, they react like you would expect kids to react, and their performances were quite memorable. While the kids are the heart of the film, the grandparents, Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan, are the stars. The film starts with them appearing just a little bit off, and the situation with the children devolves quickly as things are revealed to not be quite what they seem. The grandparents are given essentially dual roles, one that shows them as caring and relatively normal old people, and the other that depicts a much darker, dangerous, and frightening side. The grandmother's nighttime excursions are especially frightening, and probably the creepiest aspect of the whole film. Also, the found footage aspect of the movie isn't grating, and for the most part, makes logical sense as to why the characters would have a camera during the key scenes in the film.
The Visit is a relatively small film, almost entirely taking place on a remote farm; therefore, the performances are key to the success of the piece. Fortunately, all of the leads do admirable jobs bringing their characters to life and creating a connection to the viewer. It's mostly a bloodless affair, but the bizarre actions of the grandparents are constantly unsettling, with the feeling of dread building up to the climax of the film. And yes, in typical Shyamalan fashion, there is a twist; however, it isn't completely out of left field, and fits right in with the narrative of the film.
Horror is a genre that rarely produces anything memorable, but The Visit proves that M. Night still has something to give the masses, while giving the genre something fresh and original. While I went in expecting a supernatural thriller, I was given something else entirely, but it's a visit I won't soon forget.
Final Say: Watch It