M Night Shyamalan’s career trajectory has been an uncompromising affair in creative chaos, from defiantly cult hits (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) to austere pitfalls (The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth), the director is adamant he will make his mark. Although the ideas behind The Visit are no stranger than his previous, Shyamalan does find the nail to hammer home a horror flick that punches above and below the waist. The outcome is both weird and entertaining.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are two siblings yet to meet their grandparents because their mother (Kathryn Hahn) has not spoken to her parents in 15 years. She puts her children on the train to visit the estranged grandparents Nana (the marvellous Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) while she takes a weeklong cruise with a man. It quickly becomes clear that Nana is very sick, suffering from Sundowning, a psychological disorder associated with dementia, and that Pop Pop, who makes frequent trips to the forsaken shed, is not so well either.
Becca, an aspiring filmmaker, decides that the consequences of the family mismatch will unfold interestingly as a documentary. So, in a stylistic platitude, the film begins to reveal itself through the eyes of Becca’s lens with Tyler assigned the B camera. However, there is something fresh about the approach here, as the framing and finishing of the cinematography is actually quite sumptuous due to Becca’s devotion to making a good film herself.
The scare tactics are deployed thick and fast and, unfortunately, the frights come dangerously close to mere stabs in the dark, albeit fittingly, considering the rest of the Blumhouse slate (the production company behind such prodders as Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister).
The film doesn’t find an effective footing between comedy and horror either, but there is certainly relief to be found in the more outlandish moments, including Nana sharpening her nails in the corridor butt-naked – a definite highlight. However, this is a Shyamalan film and a twist is to be found, sending a big chill through his fans. DeJonge and Oxenbould are also cast with good chemistry as brother and sister, making them both actors to watch at the modest age of 17 and 14 respectively.
The Visit is released nationwide on 9th September 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Visit here: