Since we’re talking about a highly controversial director, let me explain my feelings so that we’re all on the same page. I still consider myself a fan of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. I love “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” “Signs,” “The Village,” and I even like “Lady in the Water” (come at me bro!). However, then came “The Happening” (in my opinion his worst and one of my own personal most hated films), “The Last Airbender” which felt like the whole thing was on fast forward and bad acting from the child actors, and finally “After Earth” which was just really bland. So I’ve liked a majority of his movies and even in his bad films I can see some good. It may not be much but I can see it. So I had no idea how I would feel about this movie and after having seen it, I was still not 100% sure.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 3
When I first got out of the theater I wished I could just give “The Visit” a ‘?’ out of 5 stars and be done with it. It left me with such an unusual feeling. So let’s start at the basics. Years ago a mother (played by Kathryn Hahn) left her parents’ house after a huge fight. Years later the grandparents apparently tracked her down and asked to be able to spend the week with her kids to finally meet their grandchildren (their first steps in maybe healing their relationship with the mom). The kids agree to go to help with the healing and to film a documentary given that the older child Rebecca (played by Olivia DeJonge) is an aspiring filmmaker. She and her younger brother Tyler (played by Ed Oxenbould) arrive by train in a small town and are met by their grandparents (played by Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie). At first they seem perfectly nice then very quickly they reveal some strange quirks that later become much darker as the days go on. That’s as much you need to know without dipping into spoiler territory. If you do want to know then click below. So does this twist break them movie like in the bad Shyamalan movies? No I don’t think so, it works. I unfortunately got it spoiled for me by some jerk deciding to open their review with it.
Click to Reveal Spoiler
“The Visit” is told in a found footage/documentary style. I don’t have much of a problem with the style and I think it overall worked here. There are still some of the issues of “put the darn camera down!” at some moments but overall (because they were children) I could buy that they may be dumb enough to keep filming in some of these moments. Some shots are way too clear to be filmed in the context of the scene but I can’t really complain as they were (for the most part) good looking shots.
The acting was great from everyone. My only complaint was there was not enough Kathryn Hahn. But all of the acting is fine and felt real, especially with the child actors. It’s weird how Shyamalan burst onto the scene getting out one of the greatest child performances from young Haley Joel Osment (and for that matter “Signs” and “Unbreakable” also had extremely well done kid performances too) and then goes and makes “Last Airbender” where almost all of the kid actors were crappy. Here both of the kids are likable and their actions make sense given their characters.
Entertainment Value – 3.5
Here’s what made it hard for me to talk about. There’s nothing in particular that I didn’t like or just straight up wasn’t as effective as it could have been. The plot was fine and the moral of not waiting to reconcile because it may too late one day was very nice. In fact I really like that moral. It’s not one that crops up a lot in films. However I don’t know if it was as well integrated as it could have been. On the other hand, the ending did actually get me emotional. Not as much as say the scene in “The Sixth Sense” where Cole tells his mom his secret in the car (I still can’t get through that scene without crying). But this ending was good too and a sign that maybe there still is some of that M. Night magic in him.
Another indication of that M. Night magic, the scares. The scares all really worked for me. It’s not like “Babadook” levels where I’ll have trouble going to sleep but Shyamalan does know how to put together an exciting, scary sequence. Even a film I hated like “The Happening” had the wonderfully creepy image of an entire neighborhood having hung themselves or the entire ending of being stuck in that house with the crazy lady and here he shows off that talent again. The jokes also workedfor the most part. They got big laughs out of my audience. I’ve been saying for awhile that Shyamalan has some very funny writing abilities that some seem to think is his failing in his serious films. But you can’t convince me that a lot of those moments weren’t meant to be funny. The only real problem is that here the horror sequences and the funny jokes never quite worked together fully for me. Although researching and reading a lot of other reviews I can see I’m in the minority on that. So I think you can see why “The Visit” left me with a “I don’t know how to feel” feeling. However this could very well be the stepping stone M. Night needs to return and even if it turns out it isn’t, well at least it isn’t another “The Happening.”
Rewatchability – 2.5
I can’t say that I ever plan on re-watching this film again. However if I was ever caught in a situation where I had to see it again, like nothing else on TV or I was hanging out with friends who really wanted to watch it, I’d be fine.
"The Visit" is certainly an odd movie. There's nothing major I can point to and say, “oh I hated that,” but there's also nothing that makes me say, “there's the 'Sixth Sense' Shyamalan I know and love!” Perhaps not the return to form as so many other reviews have said, but maybe it's just conformation that it is still possible for a comeback. For most people this will be a love it or hate it kind of movie with few like me being somewhere in the middle. I give it 3 stars out of 5, rent or catch a matinee showing of it.