- RatedPG13 /GenreHorror
It's not easy being M. Night Shyamalan. After scoring a runaway hit with ‘The Sixth Sense’, Shyamalan has constantly tried to replicate that success, with diminishing returns.
The main problem with many of Shyamalan's films has been his love of the twist, sometimes so jarring it just cheapens the whole film, such as in the case of ‘Signs’ and ‘The Village’.
For ‘The Visit’, Shyamalan is up to his own tricks. Yes, there is a twist, but it's clearly telegraphed from the start, with clues peppered throughout the film.
The setup is pretty basic. To give their single mum (Kathryn Hahn) some space and time to hang out with her beau, Tyler (Ed Oxenbuld) and Becca (Olivia DeJonge) stay with their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan) on a remote farm in Pennsylvania.
Their quirky grandparents impose certain rules, including telling the two precocious kids to stay in their room after 9.30pm. Before you can say creepy, the children discover that the elderly couple are involved in something sinister, and the duo tries to find out the secrets behind their grandparents' odd behaviour.
Told with found-footage, ‘The Visit’ mixes horror and comedy, but the latter works more often than the former. On the up side, both Oxenbuld and DeJonge have surprising talent, and Oxenbuld possesses great comic timing.
However, the odd behaviour of the grandparents is often employed in the plot just to generate scares, and Shymalan is not beyond using cheap jump shocks.
The two children have more personality, but their quirks are merely problems that need to be overcome in order for them to employ in the final act.
As characters the elderly couple have as much real depth as a puddle, and when they're not acting sinister they're acting befuddled, as Shyamalan avoids humanising them in order to set up the ending.
The whole premise of the movie is somewhat off-putting; an obviously mentally unstable elderly couple with signs of dementia are used as bogeyman. There are touches of the Grimm's Fairy Tales here, with hints of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, but it's not really employed to much effect.
The found footage style has been overused in recent years, particularly for horror films, and even Shyamalan cannot convince us why the precocious Becca must film stuff even when she's being chased around.
There are also some scenes that feel a little too staged, such as when the grandmother asks Becca to step into the oven to clean it or when the grandmother finds one of the children's cameras.
While 'The Visit' is not as disastrous as Shyamalan's previous films - it is saved by the performance of the brother and sister pair - it's still nowhere near as interesting as his early work and is quite unambitious.
Thankfully he tends to avoid sequels; the thought of geriatrics with walkers terrorising kids is a little too much.
'The Visit' opens 17 September 2015