The Visit Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Screenwriter: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Olivia De Jonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Benjamin Kanes Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 94 Minutes
Release Date: September 11, 2015
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and produced by Jason Blum (Creep, Insidious), The Visit is a return to form for the much-maligned filmmaker.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) say goodbye to their mom, Paula (Kathryn Hahn), as they board a train and head deep into Pennsylvania farm country to meet their maternal grandparents for the first time.
The kids are greeted at the train station by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), who can’t wait to spend the week with their grandchildren. Things are going great until the siblings begin to notice increasingly strange and hostile behavior from their dear old grandparents.
Armed with her camera and a love of cinema, 15-year-old Becca decides to make a documentary about the visit in hopes of bringing her family back together. You see, Paula hasn’t seen her parents since she left home 15 years ago after eloping with her high-school teacher. There was a huge fight between Paula and her parents and they haven’t spoken to each other since.
The first night at Nana and Pop Pop’s isolated farmhouse, the kids are given a couple of ground rules. First, they’re not to go near the basement – there’s mold growing down there and they’ll get sick. Secondly, since they’re staying with a couple of senior citizens, their bedtime is 9:30pm.
Of course, the kids break both rules and in the process uncover some startling truths about their grandparents. Pop Pop gets confused easily; trying on clothes for a costume party that will never happen. Nana, on the other hand, runs around the house at night in the nude, projectile vomiting along the way.
After a decade of disappointments including Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Air Bender, and After Earth, Shyamalan has made his best film since the early 2000s. Shot in the found-footage aesthetic, The Visit is a delightfully kooky mash-up of Hansel and Gretel and Paranormal Activity. A satisfying mix of scares and laughs, Shyamalan’s latest is as darkly comedic as it is unsettling.
The secret to The Visit‘s success is how self-contained the story is. Produced by Blumhouse Productions and Shyamalan’s Blinding Edge Pictures for a modest $5 million, The Visit is a return to the measured and understated storytelling of The Sixth Sense. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie deliver some fantastically bizarre performances as sweet old Nana and Pop Pop.
As for the kids, they’re adequately precocious, but Ed Oxenbould’s Tyler overpowers De Jonge’s levelheaded performance with a few lispy freestyle rapping scenes that are somewhat irksome. Still, it’s all part of the film’s ebb and flow as a horror comedy. One minute you’re legitimately terrified, the next you’re laughing at how batshit insane the movie is.
The Visit is a lot of fun if you’re into seeing children scarred for life by crazy-ass old people. For a PG-13 found-footage film it’s surprisingly ballsy, delivering some genuine shocks before its conclusion. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the second coming of M. Night Shaymalan.