The Visit

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, and Kathryn Hahn

I came into The Visit with quite a few reservations to say the least, and it's not just the fact that I am returning to STMR after a bit of a hiatus.  After all, we're talking about M. Night Shyamalan.  He hasn't had a good movie in well over a decade.  His previous feature film After Earth says it all in the way it sank the box office prospects of the unsinkable movie star Will Smith.  Yes, it's safe to say The Visit begins for just about any moviegoer with pretty low expectations.

Siblings Becca and Tyler Jamison (Olivia DeJonge & Ed Oxenbould) want nothing more for their mother Paula (Kathryn Hahn) than happiness.  Severing ties with her parents to marry an older man years ago and subsequently being abandoned by said man with their two children, it's safe to say that bliss has eluded Paula for some fifteen years now.  With the possibility of her going on a cruise with her latest boyfriend, Paula's prospects for bliss are looking significantly better.  Recognizing this, Becca and Tyler wouldn't mind getting out of her hair.  When their estranged grandparents reach out to Paula via the Internet, opportunity knocks for the two children.

Becca and Tyler go to stay at their grandparents' house for the week.  They've never met them, don't know what they look like, and go up to their home in the woods alone. Despite this, they soon meet Nana and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan), and hit it off with them immediately.  Becca introduces them to the documentary she's making about their mother, while Tyler acclimates them to his lyrical rhymes.  More than just getting out of Paula's hair, Becca sees this time as an opportunity for her to get her mother the elixir she needs for bliss — forgiveness from her parents for whatever transpired fifteen years ago.  As they enjoy baked goodies and game nights, it becomes clear that there's something more to their grandparents, especially their grandmother who behaves strangely at night.  They learn of sundown syndrome and incontinence and learn not to come out after 9:30.

As you all know, I've been away from STMR for a little while.  With the likes of American Ultra, War Room, and Sinister 2, I haven't missed much.  Still, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be starting back up with an M. Night Shyamalan film.  Based on the last decade or so, it was pretty much a given that I was in for a snoozer with this weekend's The Visit.  However, low expectations often leave room for quality films to sneak into theaters, and I'm pleasantly surprised to report that Shyamalan's The Visit isn't half bad at all.  Reminiscent of older horror films half a century ago stylistically while simultaneously embracing the current undying trend of the mockumentary scary movie, Shyamalan's The Visit blends the better elements of the horror genres of the present and yesteryear to make a rather potent thriller.

As much as I enjoyed The Visit, there are a few things holding the film back.  The premise is first and foremost among these problematic items.  It's totally ridiculous to say the least.  In this day, no sensible parent would send their children on a train to meet people without having thoroughly vetted said individuals or having let her children know what these people look like.  Estranged parents are no exception to this rule.  Unfortunately, this nonsense is absolutely essential to the film's narrative.  Another issue at play in The Visit is the payoff.  The final act is absolutely terrific.  It's something other horror filmmakers of today should emulate.  However, the first two acts getting us there are rather dry.  This leads perfectly into the third issue, which is the casting of Olivia DeJonge & Ed Oxenbould as Becca and Tyler Jamison respectively.  It suffices to say that these two aren't the world's most entertaining child actors.  This is more than evident in the dry patches in the earlier portion of the film.

Everyone is saying that The Visit is a return to form for writer and director M. Night Shyamalan.  I won't go so far as to agree with this point.  I will note, however, that it's nice not to see him making something that’s not a horrendous film.  The Visit has plenty of good moments, and a few rough ones.  As it stands, The Visit gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Chardonnay with this one.