Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan
Review by William Baldwin
M. Night Shyamalan has had an uneven career. He had great success with the brilliantly original The Sixth Sense (1999) and then showed he is not a one hit wonder with his follow up film Unbreakable (2000), which was very good. Since then, apart from the above average The Village (2004), everything else he has made from Signs (2002) to The Happening (2008) to The Lady in the Water (2006) to The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013) have been surprisingly poor for a director who started off so well. However, I’m happy to say I recommend Shyamalan’s latest film, The Visit.
The film begins with two fatherless children living with their mother. One day the two children decide to visit their grandparents who they have never met before, so the mother can go on holiday with her boyfriend. Once they reach their grandparents house all seems normal at first, but as time goes on unusual and threatening behaviour from the grandparents begins to occur.
The Visit is a bizarre horror comedy, (a kind of Hansel and Gretel for grownups) that does its job with the scares; I counted three times I jumped. Shyamalan has shown in the past he knows how to get a scare out of a scene and shows it in this film. The horror moments are originally constructed at times but there are moments in the film which are just created in order to just get a shock reaction, which detracts from the enjoyment of the film.
Surprisingly, The Visit is funny in places, especially when virtual newcomer Ed Oxenbould (who arguably steals the film) does his random rapping, which is not only funny but is impressive for a child actor. Oxenbould has some other funny moments in the film, one in particular is when he sees his grandma naked, he quips that he is “blind” after seeing this. Olivia DeJonge doesn’t offer more comedy support, but plays her part straight, in a way that feels very truthful. Both actors are Australian and both put on convincing American accents. I will be surprised if the actress who plays the grandma (Deanna Dunagan) in the film doesn’t appear in another horror movie, she is very scary and disturbing in her role.
The actor Peter Mcrobbie plays the grandfather in the film, I last saw him in Brokeback Mountain as the cold father of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. A memorable performance considering he had so little screen time. In this film he, like the grandma character, are both played as normal at times but at other times display psychotic tendencies. But I wasn’t scared of Mcrobbie’s character, this may be the fault of the screenwriter. Shyamalan who also wrote the film should have invented a couple of scenes where Mr Mcrobbie could have shown more of his darker side.
The performances are generally good but is the film one might ask? Well The Visit holds up very well for the first three quarters but loses its way at the end. At the finale Shyamalan doesn’t seem to know how to end the film in a satisfactory way, which is disappointing because this could have been on par with Unbreakable.