We'll be right back. We're just picking up a few things from the murder store.
M. Night Shyamalan is far enough from his ignominious run of The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening for the current crop of young horror fans to go into the delightfully creepy Visit without baggage. Me, I still awaited the twist, better termed a reveal, which Shyamalan telegraphed obviously enough I named it in under 30 minutes. Still, The Visit is the Sixth Sense director’s best film since Devil, if we can give him credit for the latter. (He provided the story and produced John Erick Dowdle’s underrated horror-in-an-elevator flick.)
If Shyamalan had released The Visit as his follow-up to The Sixth Sense rather than Unbreakable (his ahead-of-its-time meta-take on superheroes is still my favorite of his films), he would have also been in on the ground floor of the found footage movement. Instead, The Visit wonderfully blends horror and laughter. Think of it as an updated version of Disney’s live-action horror classics, The Watcher in the Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes, in a found-footage package that feels delivered over a decade too late.
Becca (Kirsten Dunst lookalike Olivia DeJonge), a budding filmmaker who acts as somewhat of a proxy for young M. Night, and her rapping brother Tyler, aka T-Diamond Stylus (Ed Oxenbould, who has some great comic timing), go to stay with their grandparents, whom they have never met, for a week while their single mom (Kathryn Hahn) goes on a cruise. But Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) start acting kind of strange, especially at night. Are they just really old or is something more sinister afoot? It’s a good thing Becca is filming a documentary, so as to capture all the weirdness on camera.
Yes, some of the found-footage opportunities feel shoehorned into the film, but overall, Shyamalan delivers mild, effective chills amidst genuinely funny moments. M. Night haters gonna hate, but his Visit should not be avoided.