When Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent to their grandparents' secluded Pennsylvania farm for a week-long stay, they quickly discover something is not right with their elderly relatives. Faced with strange rules and increasingly frightening behaviour, the children soon realise it will take all their wits to make it home alive.
For a director that specializes in left-field plot twists, M. Night Shyamalan has become rather predictable. There’s no longer a twist when you expect it coming and start watching the movie with critical eyes. He needs to breakout of this box he’s written himself into. Instead of trying to attempt something new and engaging for his abilities, the once famed director retreats into comfy trend of found-footage hour movies. Doing so will at least give him another gimmick to toy with.
The Visit starts off, as most of Shyamalan’s stories do, with an intriguing premise. Two kids, Becca and Tyler, are dropped off at their grandparents’ house for an extended stay while their mother goes on vacation. They have never met their grandparents before and are not sure what to expect. Does this seem off? You bet, but the movie’s weird twist and horrific plot can’t proceed unless the script makes such exceptions. Of course, one of the children has to be constantly filming everything otherwise we won’t have our gimmick. The brother and sister start noticing that grandma and grandpa are acting rather strange. They walk aimlessly at night, put guns in their mouths and warn the kids about going into certain areas. I’m doing my best not to spoil the twist of this movie, but from that last paragraph and the opening scene of the mother dropping off her kids, you can probably deduce how this will all play out.
What I will spoil is how cringe-worthy the whole movie feels with moments of hilarity that are not at all amusing, horror that is not all that scary and grossness that is more vomit-inducing than clever. Let’s just say one scene involves an adult diaper and it doesn’t end well. At one point the brother begins to display his musical rapping skills to the camera which made me despise this horror genre even more and temporarily lose faith in the next generation.
The way Shyamalan wrote this story comes off as one of the more mediocre episodes of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There’s a creepy atmosphere, a mystery, deranged characters and a surprise ending. But the longer the story lingers on its lesser moments of life at the grandparents’ house and the craziness of grandpa attempting to kill himself, the kinks in the armor become so apparent to the point where it’s almost laughable. It’s a scenario that can only be made possible with some of the worst parenting and oblivious of children to recognize that there is something seriously wrong with these old coots.
While watching this picture, I kept thinking about how far Shyamalan has come in his career. He was once hailed as the new name in thrilling and intriguing horror - the type of movies you could convince your grandma to see. Now he’s making cheaper horror pictures where he’s relying on both his old bag of tricks and adopting the last leg of the found-footage horror genre. I wanted to pull for this picture on that level as this could be a chance for Shyamalan to do something simple on a smaller budget - to really flex those writing and directing muscles without all the special effects money can buy. But the painful feeling seeps in that he won’t get better the more the movie goes on.
The Visit is certainly not Shyamalan’s worst picture by a long shot, but it does little to offer hope for the future of this filmmaker. He was once the new face of horror and now he’s just another face in the crowd.