M. Night Shyamalan had something of a mini-comeback with The Visit, a found-footage horror movie from 2015 about two kids going to live with their grandparents, whom they've never met, for a week. Audiences and critics didn't pan this one quite as much as the director's last few movies and it did well at the box-office so it was considered a success.
The premise for The Visit sounded pretty silly and the trailers underlined that quite a bit as it showed two old people acting strangely and two kids being terrified of them for no real reason. The film itself, it turns out, mixes comedy and horror convincingly and is refreshingly self-aware. This was something The Happening attempted years prior but the whole thing ended up being unintentionally funny and the "scary" parts came off as goofy throughout, despite the sinister premise. The two kids who supposedly film the events in this movie, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are decent actors with good enough comic timing to make the more light-hearted scenes work but they also do a good job reacting to the creepier moments. The Visit may not be the scariest film you'll see but it does have its genuinely unnerving moments and it's good to see M. Night Shyamalan trying to freak us out by any means necessary.
Deanna Dunagan, who plays the grandmother, really goes all out in this movie, giving a performance that's so unpredictable and strange you can't help but bite your nails when Becca is stuck with her in an unlit room as she's crawling around under the bed and scratching the walls. Peter McRobbie's grandfather gets increasingly intimidating and presents us with one of the most gross-out moment you'll see in any movie. Tonally, The Visit is often too disjointed as the build-up to spooky stuff can get distracted by the funnier aspects: one second Tyler is freestyle rapping, the next he his pursued by his grandmother in a creepy basement. As a whole, however, it is effective as both a comedy and a found-footage flick which makes it the first M. Night Shyamalan film to hit the mark in a while. Perhaps a simple, lower budget hit is what the filmmaker needed to get back on track.
The Visit is easily one of M. Night Shyamalan's most bizarre movies and, as such, it could have easily been another disaster. Luckily, a surprisingly game cast, some welcome intentional laughs, good use of the found-footage genre and a few solid scares make this an entertaining watch.
Worth a visit.