STARRING: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Benjamin Kanes, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jon Douglas Rainey, Steve Annan, Erica Lynne Marszalek and Michael Mariano
A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.
Two children named Becca and Tyler are sent to spend the week at their grandparents house as their mother heads of an a five day cruise with her boyfriend. Becca decides to film a documentary about meeting her grandparents for the first time and hopes to rekindle a connection between her mother and her parents. While filming, Becca and Tyler begin discover that their grandparents are acting rather odd, particularly at night.
The Happening…The Last Airbender….After Earth. The last decade has been mercilessly unkind toward M. Night Shyamalan mainly due to his last three directorial feature outings (though some will argue After Earth still feels more like a Will Smith overall project than M. Night) and here he goes back to ‘his roots’, as it were, with a low-key horror feature using a small cast and the often dreaded found footage aspect of the horror genre. Is The Visit a more promising return to form for a director fondly remembered for giving us The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable? In a way it is.
The use of the found footage feels less like a gimmick and actually makes sense with its purpose in the film, with the shots here being plausible in how they’re done and the techniques of how accomplish them. What’s more plausible than the use of the found footage aspect is the story here about the grandparents. What comes across as oddball and alien to the children is plausible by the grandparents explanation behind each of the concerns they have about Nana and Pop Pop. Having written and directed The Visit, the storyline and direction from M. Night Shyamalan is good as he gives us a lot of anti-climatic moments (from ‘can you clean the inside of the oven’ to that out of the blue cat and mouse chase that occurs somewhere in the middle of the film I think) as well as the traditional Shyamalan twist which makes a lot of sense when the think back on what happens in the film throughout.
While I’m more positive with the film than I thought I would be, whether the film is worthwhile or not will fall onto the viewers preference of horror and the co-leading performances between the two young actors playing Becca and Tyler. While at times the character of Tyler did annoy the hell out of me for the ‘Hoe Raps’, I thought the performances from Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould were solid, though the undoubtable big impression from this film with her creepy performance is Deanna Dunagan as Nana. The film tries to balance the horror with the comedy elements to the point that the film becomes neither, with a few jump scares in between it just gives the impression of a creepy atmosphere.
Even with its flaws, I admire what M. Night Shyamalan attempted here and though the storyline is plausible and tension filled, in the long run i’ll just about remember Deanna Dunagan’s performance only from the film. Will be interesting to see where Oliva DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould careers are a decade from now though. 5/10