Young filmmaker Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her wannabe rapper brother Tyler (Ben Oxenbould) decide to visit their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) for the first time when their mother (Kathryn Hahn) decides to take some time out and go on a cruise.
At first the pair are excited about their visit and Becca decides that the trip would make a good subject for a documentary. However, things start to become creepy for the two when their grandparents start acting strange and they are forbidden to leave their bedrooms after bedtime. Is something sinister occurring?
There is no doubt about it the once promising career of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is on the rocks. He burst onto the scene with The Sixth Sense but then came average films like The Happening which were quickly followed by some of the worst movies ever made – The Last Airbender and After Earth. Well it seems as though Shyamalan listened to the public and the critics because he has decided to do something very different with his latest film The Visit. He goes right back to the drawing board and has decided to make a low budget film with a cast of virtual unknowns.
Now that might be enough to make some people groan, but it seems to be the right decision for Shyamalan as returning to the basic style of filmmaking has meant that he has had to rely on a good script to impress the audience rather than millions of dollars worth of special effects. And I’ll admit it to my surprise he manages to pull it off very well with a film that has now even seemed to win horror fans… some of the hardest film lovers to impress.
Early on The Visit did have me wondering what the hell I had walked into as the character Tyler started to rap… yes rap like a poor man’s Eminem. After a while though I realised that Shyamalan had just inserted this to get some laughs from the audience or even to make this film a little bit different, no instead this was something that had been lacking from his films for quite a while – characterisation. With the important aspect of a screenplay welcomed back Shymalan then takes his audience on a journey that provides a more than enough scares along the way, with the odd chuckle and then delivers its payload with a twist that actually drew sounds of amazement and fear out of the audience I was sitting with. Yes Shymalan has not only managed to deliver a horror with a mix of comedy, but also made that a damn good horror film at the same time.
It does feel that The Visit’s fairytale style story allows Shyamalan to take a journey make to his childhood and he mostly seems to do this through the character of Becca who you can easily imagine is the female version of what the wannabe-filmmaker teenage Shymalan would have been like. Maybe it’s because of this personal touch or perhaps because the film actually works but this was one time when the ‘found footage’ style of filmmaking didn’t make me want to leave the cinema.
Of course one of the dangers of making a low budget film with no names acting is that the acting is going to be below par but that certainly isn’t the case here. Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan bring a brilliant level of creepiness to this film while the young Australian stars Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge put in mature performances well above their ages. This is something that fans of Australian television series Puberty Blues have come to expect from Oxenbould and he continue to shape himself to be one of the big international stars of the future.
Well its official people, it has taken a few bombs along the way but M. Night Shyamalan is back with one of the most impressive horror flicks of the year. The back to basics storytelling approach that Shyamalan takes with The Visit results in a horror flick with an amazing twist that is guaranteed to provide a few scares for its audience.