Very few directors are as polarizing as M. Night Shyamalan. He started out as somewhat of a prodigy with universally lauded movies 'Sixth Sense', 'Unbreakable', and 'Signs', but then seemingly bought into his own hype and started making missteps in the films he made. I think there's always been this hope amongst movie fans that he would find his stride again and return to form. While I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say that 'The Visit' is the movie that will catapult him back into superstardom, it's definitely an insanely entertaining movie and a step in the right direction.
This movie was a bit of a passion project, taking Shyamalan back to his roots as an amateur movie maker from childhood. He completely and independently financed and made the movie with the money he made from directing the Will Smith flop 'After Earth', so that he could be in complete creative control and make the film he wanted to. I do give people somewhat of a warning, though, in that this film has been marketed to be something it really isn't. It's being marketed as a pretty much straight up horror found footage film, but the movie actually has more comedy than horror, but it works.
The first person perspective is key to the story, as everything we see as an audience is essentially a documentary that one of our main two characters is making, as an aspiring filmmaker in her early teens. Becca, and her younger brother Tyler, are sent to spend a week with their grandparents on their mother's
side, grandparents that they've never met. As soon as they arrive, we begin to notice that something isn't quite right with them. The more time our kids spend with them, they start to suspect things aren't normal, as well. So in making their documentary, they begin to film the odd behaviors to try to figure out exactly what is going on. To give too many details about the finer plot points of the film would be doing the viewer a disservice, as this was genuinely one of the first movies in quite a well that kept me guessing up until the finale. It certainly has a bit of the twist we've come to expect from M. Night, but it comes very naturally and progressively and it never came across as being a gimmick or tacked on. And speaking of gimmicks, the way overused practice of the first person camera aka found footage film, is certainly very polarizing in itself, and while I'm generally not a fan, it worked to this film's advantage and having played a big part in the plot of the film, it would have been nowhere near as effective any other way. It *certainly* was very effective when it came to developing the always fun jump scares. If a movie can get a jump scare over on me, it deserves serious props.
So I've discussed the more horror elements, but the comedic material in this movie is it's strongpoint. Tyler, the young brother of our duo, is played by an actor named Ed Oxenbould, and it's an absolutely star making performance. While Becca is the older, more mature, level headed of the two, Tyler is your typical boisterous kid, always mocking his sister's interest in filming, but he raps. And the raps he performed had the audience in stitches. I found myself wondering if the character was written that way, or they just found the actor could do it and wrote it into the film. The kid was just amazing, and as someone who is usually overly skeptical and critical of child actors, that's incomparably high praise. I just could not wait to see him on screen, and everyone in the room felt the same way. But the acting was above average from the entire cast, especially when you think back on the film, and notice the nuances that you didn'tt notice the first time.
I think it's pretty obvious that I quite enjoyed the film, and can't really think of much in the way of criticism. It's certainly not a perfect movie, but what it does, it does very well. While it's not necessarily a particularly deep, philosophical film that has the answer to anything, you can definitely find worse ways to spend 90 minutes. I would say that while I did enjoy the comedy and all the different elements, the movie, marketing aside, seems like it could've used more horror. As mentioned before, there are some very effective jump scares, but more than that, there's not a ton of horror to be had. No real gore to speak of , no blood and guts or graphic violence, so go in with an open mind and no real expectations, especially considering how it's been marketed. It's a great marriage of the genres, and hopefully it is proof that M. Night still has his touch. The movie just goes to show that sometimes you still have to go backwards to go forwards.