Devin King | Staff Reporter
Published Sept. 11, 2015; 10:40 a.m.
Imagine a child on their way to a routine checkup at their doctor’s office, a place has been accompanied with the child’s memories of discomfort and pain. However, when the child arrived at the doctor’s office, he was not met with displeasure, but rather, confusion. Instead of a painful experience, the child felt light as a feather, as the office became an abstract place that was difficult to identify. I have nothing against doctors, but I truly felt like the child mentioned above during my screening of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit.”
As many know, Shyamalan’s directing career took quite a fall from the early acclaim he received from “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.” However, his more recent films, such as “After Earth” and “The Last Airbender,” were some of the worst received movies of their respective years. “The Visit” is not close to as bad as his more recent work, nor is it a redemptive homerun. Instead, it is a strange yet entertaining tale that will likely remain one-of-a-kind.
The story focuses on a brother and sister in their early teenage years. After her mother (Kathryn Hahn) reunites online with her estranged grandparents, Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger sibling Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are invited to a short stay with their grandmother Doris (Deanna Dunagan) and grandfather John (Peter McRobbie), whom the children refer to as Nana and Pop Pop. Not only does Rebecca and Tyler choose to agree to a visit, but they also decide to make a documentary about their trip (this is a found footage film after all). Things go according to plan, until it is revealed that the grandparents are not all who they appear to be and a harsh 9:30 p.m. curfew is placed on the siblings.
As people age, the mind starts to go and some unintentionally funny, yet awkward, things can occur. Shyamalan captures this idea and incorporates it as the main tone of the film. “The Visit” is roughly 60 percent comedy and 40 percent horror, but the laughs and scares are very separate from each other causing some strange juxtapositions. This works since this awkward narration is complemented by its similar tone. The comedy works most of time thanks to the great delivery of the lines, but the horror is more hit and miss since it relies more on jump-scares rather than subtle fear on multiple occasions.
The performances were excellent at capturing all the strange behaviors and actions that the story depends on. Without a doubt, Oxenbould gives the most entertaining performance as hilarious rapper-wannabe Tyler. He steals every one of his scenes. In a technical sense, Dunagan gave the best performance. There are so many rapid emotional beats that the story demanded from Dunagan, but she mastered it gracefully.
As a found footage film, there are a couple of things done right that many others of its kind stumble on. The siblings bring two HD cameras with them, so multiple shots can be used in the same scene. Also, if two characters separate, the two cameras allow the film to stay with them. It is also nice to look at a found footage film that is not intentionally made to look like it is on a non-HD device.
There’s a lot to enjoy in “The Visit” but it surely does make its share of mistakes. The found footage angles are unrealistic at times and the film could have used some better writing here and there. However, if Shyamalan is trying to make his way back to the glory of his early films, then “The Visit” is just what the doctor ordered.