Director: M Night Shyamalan
Starring: Olvia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, peter McRobbie and Kathryn Hahn
After making The Last Airbender, which is considered by many to be not only the worst adaptation of all time, but one of the worst films of all time, Shyamalan followed it up with the also poorly received After Earth. Changing lanes completely, he then self-financed a small scale horror film, The Visit in 2015. This has been hailed as a return to form, and Shyamalan would go on to make Split and Glass, both worthy successes of Unbreakable, one of the best ‘superhero’ films ever made.
The Visit is a found-footage horror film, about two children visiting their grandparents for the first time. They have never met them, or even know what they look like. The elder of the two children, Becca played by DeJonge (The Society, The Sisterhood of Night) is an amateur documentary filmmaker and decides to document the visit. This is how the film is presented to us.
Unlike a lot of found footage films, the camera isn’t completely distracting here, there are moments where it swings around wildly but it’s not going to make most people feel sick. It works for the set up and does bring you closer to the intimate horror. Towards the end, when everything starts to really pick up; it does sadly fall into the usual trappings of the camera having to be picked up and moved by characters where in real life they would probably leave it and run. It’s not quite as bad as Cloverfield in this regard, but it does take you out of it a little.
With that being said, The Visit is an excellent film and is worthy of being called Shyamalan’s return to form. It’s creepy and unsettling, every performance is great and the twist, while predictable, is executed perfectly and to great effect. Using the camera to take you into the house, makes you feel like you’re almost part of the action, instead of a spectator, this combined with the more plausible feel to the plot adds to the horror and tension.
The Visit is very creepy, with an unsettling tone from almost the start. It ramps up quickly, with a very tense hide and seek game/chase under the house. It’s scary and will have you on the edge of your seat. Sadly, the horror doesn’t really get more intense than this until right at the end. It stays on the same level for most of the film, as the week trip moves from day to day. It isn’t until the last 15 or so minutes where it steps up again. If it built up more gradually then this could be one of the scariest films ever made. The Hide and Seek part is genuinely scary, it’ll have you on the edge of your seat and then it mellows out until the end.
Since this was released, 6 years ago, it has divided opinions. There are a lot of top reviews out there and a lot saying it’s shallow, messy and not scary. I can understand where they are coming from, I think it depends on how distracting you find the found-footage genre and if you find the lead actors believable. I think they are great and if you watch it in a dark room and let yourself get drawn in, then it’s scary. It is listed as a comedy-horror and while it does have a few humorous moments, it’s not funny enough to be labelled as a comedy. To me this is a horror film. It’s tense and unsettling.
One of the humorous bits in the film is that most people who encounter Becca, start reciting lines, claiming they used to be an actor. It’s hard not to imagine this is Shyamalan venting a frustration he must face on a day to day basis. It’s not played out and gets a smile at the very least every time.
The Visit is a great little horror film. The tension is there from almost the beginning and doesn’t let up. I wish it built up more as it goes along, but it’s still a scary film that’s best watched in the dark at night. At 90ish minutes it keeps a good pace and doesn’t feel like it drags at any point. Shyamalan has proven that he can make genuine horror.