Review: THE VISIT (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review: THE VISIT (2015)

M. Night Shyamalan's blend of found-footage horror genre with comedic undertone is odd, but surprisingly scary little movie.

Once upon a time, M. Night Shyamalan's movies used to be equaled as box office gold with a string of successful hits including THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), UNBREAKABLE (2000), SIGNS (2002) and to a lesser extent, THE VILLAGE (2004). However, his subsequent movies (2006's LADY IN THE WATER, 2008's THE HAPPENING, 2010's THE LAST AIRBENDER and 2013's AFTER EARTH) were all creative disappointments. Since then, his name is synonymous to box office poison. In 2015, he managed to revive his dwindling career again with a TV debut in the recently-concluded Wayward Pines, on which he directed the pilot episode and executive-produced the series. On the movie front, Shyamalan finally returned to his familiar roots and made a minor comeback with THE VISIT.


THE VISIT follows two young siblings Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) being sent by their mother (Kathryn Hahn) to their grandparents' home in the remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. At the beginning, things seem fine with their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). But it doesn't take long before the siblings discover there's something wrong with the elderly couple.


Shyamalan's first foray into found-footage horror may have been a decade too late in the game, but he manages to make good use of this well-worn genre. Unlike most like-minded genre often ruined by incomprehensible jittery camerawork, the shaky-cam technique in THE VISIT is tolerable enough to follow what is going on.

Shyamalan also proves he still hasn't lost his cinematic touch when comes to generating genuine moments of suspense. Best of all, he made a brilliant choice not to include music score at all. Instead, he relies mostly on sound effect to build a heightened sense of anticipation throughout the movie. It was a bold move that made some of the scenes all the more shivery to watch for.

The screenplay, written by Shyamalan himself, is reminiscent of classic fairy tales inspired from Brothers Grimm's Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel. Such idea is actually nothing new, but the story here is decent enough. On top of that, Shyamalan eschews his ponderous storytelling technique in favor for a more economical approach. Gone are the days where he used to execute his story in such pretentious and depressingly glum manner. Here, it's a refreshing change of pace to see him letting loose with a playful mix of horror and comedy. 

From Joseph Cross in the little-seen comedy WIDE AWAKE (1998) to Haley Joel Osment in THE SIXTH SENSE as well as Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin in SIGNS, Shyamalan always has a knack for bringing out the best in younger talents. That same achievement is also evident in THE VISIT. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are both fantastic as two young siblings. Oxenbould is especially memorable, whose cheeky and energetic performance as Tyler delivers the movie's biggest laughs.

Screen veterans Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are equally unforgettable as Becca and Tyler's grandparents. Their chameleon-like performances that alternate from warm and friendly to weird-behaving old couples, are eerily impressive.


The scene involved a game of hide-and-seek underneath the porch, is a classic example of claustrophobic tension and edge-of-your-seat suspense.


While Shyamalan's horror-comedy approach is efficient, not every scene in the movie works in its favour. There are times the hybrid genre looks either forced or awkwardly misplaced. For instance, the end credit which involves Tyler's rapping moment feels like it's better off for earlier scene instead. 

Then there's the revelation or more appropriately, the Shyamalan's signature twist at the end of the movie. I won't spoil it for you here, but let's just say the twist doesn't cut the same cloth like THE SIXTH SENSE, THE VILLAGE or even UNBREAKABLE. To me, the payoff feels lame once the truth is revealed.


Although THE VISIT is far from Shyamalan's best, at least it's a mile better than his last four movies.

* This review is written courtesy from UIP Malaysia press screening *

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