‘The Visit’: Future Classic Puts Shyamalan Back On Map


No one loves you like your grandparents

 The Plot:

Estranged from her partner for years, a mother sends her children to visit their grandparents while away on vacation. There to shoot a family-themed documentary, the kids feel right at home upon arrival. But as the old saying goes, nothing is what it seems. Even when strange things happen, it’s simply chalked up to old age. Only soon the kids begin to see their family elders in a new light – a very dark one. With the seven-day trip getting weirder with each passing hour, the kids must protect themselves against the increasingly strange couple if they have any hope of seeing their mother again. Visiting your grandparents can be hard. Staying for a week could be murder. Welcome to The Visit.

The Review:

I remember being knee high to Zelda Rubinstein when M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 breakout-hit The Sixth Sense came out. You literally couldn’t get away from hearing about the movie or overhearing random people discussing the film’s shock ending. Simply put, it was a cultural phenomenon. I loved The Sixth Sense, and Shyamalan followed the film up with the equally stellar 2000 film Unbreakable. Then things got bad for the filmmaker and years later he’s kind of known as a joke. Deadites, he’s just made one of greatest comebacks in the history of cinema. So let’s all stay with loved ones, do a little documentary filmmaking, and try to survive grandma’s cooking as I review the 2015 family-oriented fright fest, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit .

People Leave. Because They Find Something They Like Better-Tyler

The Direction:

M. Night Shyamalan directs The Visit with clarity and vision. Unlike many of the filmmaker’s visual tales, The Visit is an extreme departure from the more traditional films the director has helmed – not in a scripting sense but the way the narrative is presented.

Shyamalan, who was also behind the poorly looked upon 2006 film Lady in the Water and 2008’s dismal The Happening, is in his element with The Visit. The film, without giving too much away, is completely made up of the footage from the two cameras the kids have to shoot Becca’s documentary. There isn’t a single shot in the film otherwise. Where I would usually feel this was a cheap ploy, the film was produced by mega-producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse who specializes in lower budget films, the narrative that fills the hand-held frame is amazing.

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That said, the composition and camera movement can’t really be compared to traditional filmmaking. There isn’t much of a crew compared to a “regular” film, and takes don’t have the potential to be as disciplined. Then again, that would work against the organic nature of the screenplay; it wouldn’t seem in real time and it would give the audience an inauthentic feel.

There are some great shots though. There are a few that the filmmaker, which makes the processing more impressive, executes towards the end that feel right but also fit into the narrative. Essentially without a score to help the atmosphere, the filmmaker does a bang-up job with making these angles feel fresh and give the film a more traditional presence. Not that it needed one, the film is amazing at what it’s attempting to accomplish as a whole and I loved every freaking second.

Among that, the director (who also wrote the script) knows when to let the character moments breath. He understands that a film like this will rest on how believable his characters are and he intelligently lets them have their day. He didn’t let the direction get in the way of that, especially in the first and second acts, and this helped him immensely strengthen his future classic The Visit.

The Script:

M. Night Shyamalan’s script, The Visit, is as sharp a script as I’ve seen in quite some time. Produced by Blumhouse, current kingpin of low-budget horror, The Visit uses the production company’s motto of low budgets but creative freedom. While it’s sad Shyamalan has sank to this point, he’s a next level filmmaker regardless and perhaps he needed a fall from grace to get back to self-inspired filmmaking. Filmmakers should make films for themselves and share them with the world instead of worrying about ego boasting politics. I’m proud to say the man who was once compared to Steven Spielberg, but lost his way for a while, is back. And, baby, he’s better than ever.

While the film does follow the traditional gimmicks of a found footage film, it’s still sound in plot momentum. There is no exposition in the traditional sense where we would see scenes involving other characters and situations, instead, we stay with the two kids the entire time.

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That’s not to say there aren’t sets and payoffs. In fact, the film has many satisfying narrative payoffs. It shows how much of a disciplined storyteller Shyamalan is. Great filmmaker’s understand the true importance of a film’s payoff and there’re two at the end of The Visit that are extremely satisfying. He does this with the aid of his first act, which makes the characters seem real and makes you feel as if you’ve know them for years.

Otherwise, the film is absolutely hilarious; this might have been the biggest surprise in the film. I laughed hard and often sitting in that theater alone. I even applauded. Deadites, I’m in love with The Visit.

The Acting:

The Visit features really strong acting and is one of the film’s strongest aspects. Even with the sole use of the hand-helds, the actors more than bring it in front of the shaky cam. In actuality, these types of movies should focus on acting more because the narrative is being presented as “real.” Good thing for us, our time, and our money, the creative crew of The Visit knew this very well.

Without a doubt, the best performance belongs to Deanna Dunagan. Playing the role of Nana, the actress is breathtaking as the disturbed grandmother to our two leads. I was shocked at how good she was at making me both uncomfortable and floored simultaneously. There are so many scenes that she shines in while walking the line between insanity and elderly, and I silently applauded. I’ll just say this Deadites: Yahtzee.

Peter McRonnie is also stellar in the film. Playing Pop Pop, he, too, is amazing at giving enough to the audience, but not enough to make his performance inconsequential. The actor knocks it out of the park with his natural abilities.

Then we come to the leads of the film. Becca and Tyler, played by Olivia DeJorge and Ed Oxenbould respectively, have amazing chemistry. It takes no effort on our part to imagine them as siblings, it’s all on the screen. More than that, the two handle the comedy, emotions, and situations with ease. The script asks a lot of the pint-sized performers and the two deliver with a very natural presence and realistic responses. Even the heavy dramatic stuff seems easy for them to convey. By the time the film gears towards the third act, I absolutely didn’t want anything bad to happen to the kids.

The Verdict:

The Visit is the M. Night Shyamalan film we’ve been waiting for. It’s hilarious, disturbing, and wholly satisfying. While the film isn’t traditionally scary – something that’s difficult to achieve without a score and more traditional filmmaking – the film excels at creating genuine characters and putting the audience through the ringer via their trials. I can’t recommend the film enough, it’s now one of my all-time favorites, and I feverishly look forward to seeing the film over and over in the coming years. So go out and see the thing. Or I might just have to pay you a visit. Deadites, you’ve been informed.

The Grade: A-

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