Ditching Hollywood and big budgets in favour of creating a smaller and self-funded film, many hoped The Visit would be a return to form for director M Night Shyamalan. Returning to his horror roots but this time with an injection of comedy, will this be the film to end Shyamalan’s streak of misfires, or is he too late to the party with a found-footage horror film?
Siblings Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) set off on a train bound for Pennsylvania to meet their grandparents for the first time. The children’s mother (Kathryn Hahn) has not spoken to her parents in years due to a disagreement and the siblings intend on making a documentary about their visit to bring home to her. “Nana” (Deanna Dunagan) and “Pop Pop” (Peter McRobbie) meet their grandchildren at the train station and once the children settle into their isolated farmhouse, they realise things are not quite as they seem.
Sam Raimi, director of the Evil Dead franchise and master of mixing screams with laughter, once described horror and comedy as “strange cousins” and that “a scream of horror when the creature leaps out is very similar to the scream of laughter from an unexpected punchline. A scream and a laugh are both involuntary reactions”. Unfortunately, The Visit lacks both horror and comedy. Typical of a found-footage film, the horror consists of just loud noises instead of genuine, well-earned scares. With very few scattered laughs throughout, the comedy falls short, with Tyler’s rapping more irritating than funny.
Despite their characters occasionally wearing thin, youngsters DeJonge and Oxenbould act confidently throughout, impressively holding their own with the rest of the adult cast. The acting remains solid across the board with Dunagan and McRobbie playing unhinged grandparents in a melodramatic fashion.
The Visit showcases all of the clichés that found-footage style films are ridiculed for. Lacking horror and comedy, the film is flawed but somewhat entertaining in places. Not in the same realm as The Sixth Sense, but not as disastrous as After Earth, The Visit is definitely a small step in the right direction for M Night Shyamalan.