The Visit

The Visit photo starrating-2stars.jpgThe good news is that The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan’s best film in a decade. The bad news is that it’s still nothing to write home about. The perennial letdown hasn’t directed anything satisfying since 2002’s Signs. As of this writing, that was 13 years ago and with each passing year, the possibility of another gem like The Sixth Sense becomes less and less likely. However The Visit warrants some praise. He’s working with a much lower budget this time around, so the expectation for an “event” movie is gone. This is a much more restrained affair. Additionally, the lighthearted drama frequently veers away from standard horror into outright comedy. The two characteristics are enough to lift this out of the execrable muck from which his work usually descends. However, that still doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable.

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are two annoyingly precocious teenagers who board a train alone. [Random aside: Oxenbould is the reincarnation of young 80s actor Joshua John Miller (River’s Edge, Near Dark)] Tyler is an enthusiastic rapper. It’s not clear whether this suburban white boy’s rhyming skills are supposed to be humorous or endearing. Grating is a word that comes to mind. Anyway, the two kids are on their way to meeting their grandparents for the very first time. That’s right, they’ve never met. Mom (Kathryn Hahn) had a falling out with her parents 15 years prior and so Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) have been estranged from the family for all this time.

Here’s where things go from adequate to unbearable. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker and wants to capture her visit for posterity. The movie we’re watching is her shaky cam footage of everything she views. Her brother Tyler is also given a camera so more than one point of view shot can be rationalized . Naturally M. Night Shyamalan is actually the one responsible for this approach. We get these headache inducing shots that switch back and forth between the two camcorders in an effort to record everything. Even when a device is dropped on the ground, it still conveniently captures the important action. This cinematographic style adds no value to the account other than to create a nuisance. It’s shtick and it doesn’t serve the story.

The Visit has a decent foundation. Kids stay with grandparents that are complete strangers to them.  Nana and Pop Pop are seemingly well meaning old people. Their initial impression is warm and pleasant. Then things change when the sun goes down. Their behavior becomes erratic, in essence bizarre. Nana roams the house at night in various states of undress. She vomits on the floor and scratches at the walls. Pop-pop keeps his soiled adult diapers in the woodshed, attacks a stranger on the street and delusionally dresses in formal wear for a nonexistent costume party. Are they suffering from aging mental disorders or is there something even more sinister afoot? The chronicle marks the kids’ vacation time with five title cards, one for each day of their trip. The first person shaky cam perspective only obscures an empty narrative. The gimmick takes what could’ve been a passable time filler into something interminable. Right around the halfway point you’ll realize there’s no plot. That is, of course, until that inevitable “twist” that in no way justifies the long-drawn-out set-up. Apparently M. Night Shyamalan knows no other way to creatively end a story. The movie is a mere 94 minutes. Yet you’ll be begging for that final Friday title card way before it appears.

09-10-15

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21 Responses to “The Visit”

  1. Good review! The last Shyamalan movie I watched was Signs … that was a long time ago. Sounds like this is a skippable one too though not as bad.

  2. Signs is my fave M. Night film. Although I’m in the minority, I actually liked Lady in the Water, but I think that was his last film I liked. I was hoping this one would be a surprise. I am sure it has its moments, but overall looks a bit generic. I don’t understand why it has to be recorded like shaky footage? I guess a lot of people have that question. But on a positive note, it looks to be a huge step-up from “The Happening” and “After Earth”.

  3. Rachel Wagner Smilingldsgirl Says:

    Reblogged this on Reviewing All 54 Disney Animated Films And More! and commented:
    I don’t think I will see this one because I really don’t like found footage movies, Shyamalan or scary movies. Here’s a review from a fellow blogger at fastfilmreviews.com so check it out.

  4. If you want to count Shamalan’s recent foray into TV with Wayward Pines (directed the pilot and served as executive producer on the series) you could probably call that satisfying and the consensus seems to be that it was, though it isn’t original material. I enjoyed it for the most part.

    Really want to see this one, and my sister really liked it, but I think this will be a perfect view for Netflix, especially with the stuff coming out in the next few weeks. Time is getting shorter, sadly, to see almost everything that arrives in theaters now. We’re in fall now 😦

  5. I’ve never really been a fan of M. Night Shameaboutthelastfilm, although I liked his ‘big reveals’ at first, they’re now the norm and we just expect them, so they’re not such a big shock anymore. I’ve read quite a few poor reviews for this, so I might catch it on DVD if it takes my fancy.

  6. It wouldn’t be M. Night Shyamalan without a twist, wouldn’t it? I despise his filmography so this is definitely a miss for me. Nice review Mark.

  7. I’ll give it 3 stars. I was into it. I kept waiting for some kinda explanation. The twist was ok, just wish it had a better ending.

  8. Hahah, I don’t know if I’ve read a more humorous ending paragraph from you than this one. “Nana roams the house at night in various states of undress. She vomits on the floor and scratches at the walls. Pop-pop keeps his soiled adult diapers in the woodshed, attacks a stranger on the street and delusionally dresses in formal wear for a nonexistent costume party.”

    What the heck is happening M. Night?

  9. I actually am not a fan of the twist of “The Sixth Sense,” although I liked the movie and it’s ability to create terror in a totally ordinary environment overall. I mean

    *** (warning, spoiler for people who have lived under a rock for the last twenty years,) ***

    it makes no logical sense that Bruce Willis would fail to notice for ages he was dead and that he wasn’t [using the bathroom] or changing clothes and that NOBODY except the boy was interacting with him. I found the similarly themed “The Others” to the better film.

    I was intrigued by the trailer for “The Visit” but wary, because Shamaylan (sorry, don’t know how to spell his name) is infamous for being sh– ever since “The Sixth Sense.) Seeing the reviews, however, I think I’ll skip it. :/

  10. I didn’t really find anything in The Visit worthy of praise. I hated the entire thing, and realized that I couldn’t stand it 10 minutes in. I found both of the children so incredibly annoying and pretentious that I wanted to walk out. Grating is the perfect word to describe Oxenbould’s rapping. I totally agree that the style is shtick that doesn’t serve the story. I thought that it took something interesting (i.e. the erratic behavior of the grandparents) and then went with the most obvious possible explanation with its “twist.” The whole thing felt like the dirty diaper to the face Oxenbould has to endure.

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