I had mixed feelings going into The Visit. On the one hand Shyamalan hasn’t made a good film since Lady in the Water (2006) on the other hand this did appear to be somewhat of a return to form for M. Night. What I got was not the best Shyamalan film of all time but it is clearly in the column of good Shyamalan films. Also I would say in the low budget sub-genre of ‘found footage’ that began miserably back with the godawful Blair Witch and has regrettably continued through such worthless trash as Paranormal Activity, I would say that The Visit is the best movie in its sub genre.
The story follows two children who go to spend time with their grandparents for a weekend. They have never met their grandparents as their mother has been estranged from them for nearly two decades, to the point where even after tracking her down on the Internet and setting up the visit. Once getting there the grandparents seem fairly decent folk. However things soon start to take a nasty turn. Despite being fairly normal-ish grandparents during the day the two children soon find out that their grandmother has very bizarre behavior after nightfall and their grandfather seems to be a withdrawn paranoid and downright disturbing at times. At first the grandchildren write it off as ‘they’re just old’ and beginning to suffer from the signs of early dementia. But these excuses do not last very long and they soon realize their grandparents may be out to kill them.
Now I think it is wrong to talk about Shyamalan’s twist endings as of his previous films only the Sixth Sense and The Village actually had twist endings, so people who say twist endings are a hallmark of his film making have never actually watched his movies…however this movie does have a twist ending so I’m not going into too many of the details.
As I said this probably is the best movie in the ‘found footage’ sub-genre there is. It actually has character development, all the scenes are relevant to the plot and they are not just tediously long scenes of nothing happening to bore you before a jump scare (not that there aren’t jump scares, but they’re there without the boredom that so many movies of the sub-genre have). In fact a lot of the scenes seem crafted as “anything you can do, I can do better” message to all the directors who have been wasting our time with terrible horror movies.
And while a good found footage film, it does lack what made the good Shyamalan movies good. There is character development and a plot, but there is none of the deeper themes that made Unbreakable or Signs more than just movies with a passable plot. This movie lacks a deeper meaning of any kind and thus while it has excellent style, it’s lacking the substance that we used to praise.
On the whole I would say this is the worst of Shyamalan’s good films, but the best found footage film ever. So if you enjoy horror films I would say go see this film…if you’re looking for the glory days of Shyamalan, you will have to wait a little longer. The good news is the death spiral of Shyamalan is over.
Overall I give it a C+, but only because I don’t like this type of movie. But I am willing to believe that Shyamalan may actually be back as a good writer.