I for one never thought M. Night Shyamalan went away. Shyamalan was brutalized by critics for films like After Earth and The Last Airbender and even The Happening, and unfairly. Shyamalan has always shown a flair for Twilight Zone like twists to his plots and his latest excursion into PG-13 horror The Visit is no exception.
How can you really knock a talented writer/director that knocked grand slams back to back with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (1999 & 2000)? Another of my personal favorite Shyamalan films is Lady in the Water, where one character, a gruff movie critic, gets offed by a mythic monster.
The Visit takes the “found footage” genre and turns it on its head. A couple of young-teens are sent by their single mother (Kathryn Hahn) by train to spend a week with her estranged parents whom see hasn’t seen for years. When the kids first arrive at the grandparents’ rural farm everything is cookies and biscuits. But when night falls things get a little, shall we say, bizarre.
Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenhould play the kids, Becca and Tyler. The two are armed only with a computer and two video cameras that they are using to document their vacation. These tiny filmmakers are better technicians than most people making films in the found footage department today, which is to say The Visit works a lot better than the latest installment of Paranormal Activity. “Are you adjusting the focal length of the shot?” asks Becca of Tyler.
Shyamalan disorients the viewer by constantly cutting off heads in certain shots and having too much headroom in other shots. Some set-ups are outside the realm of the point-of-view of Becca and Tyler but those are literally so few you could count them on one hand. A couple of other shots are weird camera lying on the floor Blair Witch angles. The Visit, while not an enduring classic, works its terror magic enough so that you’re on the edge of your seat for an hour-and-a-half.
— Michael Bergeron