Since my weekly trip to the cinema last Thursday to see the latest cinematic offering from M. Night Shyamalan; I’ve been amused and disappointed by the amount of irrational dislike it’s received from movie fans. Despite controversy surrounding his previous films, I’ve always been a fan and great admirer of the director. In this found-footage feature (Shyamalan’s first) we follow the point-of-view of two young siblings who are visiting their grandparents for the first time. Despite some initial awkwardness upon the children’s arrival, they’re met with kindness and open arms. However as the sun goes down on the secluded and very beautiful Pennsylvanian farm on which they’re staying, the eldest sibling Becca, notices her grandmother acting very strangely. Further more, the two are firmly advised by their grandfather not to leave their room after 9:30pm.
My girlfriend who has a keen eye for film trivia, noted that three full cuts of ‘The Visit’ were prepared by Shyamalan. The first was “pure comedy”, the second was “pure horror”, and the final cut being a balanced combination of both. The film’s comedic element which comes from the two young leads may be lost on some viewers, but I found it particularly realistic as children often resort to humour when faced with something they’re afraid of or don’t understand. On the other hand, it’s the increasingly bizarre and disturbing behaviour from our two elderly characters who attribute to the film’s intensity and scare factor, in addition to a constant unsettling vibe. Another device which adds to the film’s eerie tone is it’s found footage format which acts as an effective tool in the right hands. Thankfully this is the case in ‘The Visit’; cleverly derived from the fact that Becca is both filming and editing a documentary during her stay, despite ridicule from her brother, Tyler. Not only does this allow for a more realistic view-point, but a candid and personal insight into the characters. Performances from the cast are impressive, particularly from Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould as siblings Becca and Tyler, who both hail from Melbourne. Also Deanna Dunagan and character actor Peter McRobbie are effectively creepy as the Nana and Pop Pop.
With a number of clues and subtle hints placed throughout, long time fans of Shyamalan will enjoy trying to solve the mystery before all is reviled, in what is an overall exceptional horror film. Apparently it’s still trendy to dismiss the ambitious director, but ‘The Visit’ is well worth seeing and serves as a fun cinema-going experience. Now playing across Australia as of September 24th.
(2015, dir: M. Night Shyamalan)