Hallow-vent Calendar - Day 23: The Visit

Welcome to our Hallow-vent Calendar; a horror-film-filled daily countdown to our favourite spooky celebration, Hallowe'en. For Day 23, David Ames visits The Visit...

M. Night Shyamalan has been a strangely controversial figure in cinema over the past decade. His work is both lauded and hated and his movies range from thrillers to horror films to big budget adaptations of anime properties. I have personally always been a fan of most of his work, even the particularly bad stuff (looking at you The Last Airbender) but he had somewhat dropped off the map in recent years. His early works, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Lady In the Water, and The Village are all favorites of mine, regardless of what people sat about them. His reliance on twists has however become culturally hilarious which can be seen by the amazing references on Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken (What a twist!). At the behest of my best friend and fellow aficionado, Fox, I sat down to watch Shyamalan’s newest offering, 2015’s The Visit.

From the first instant I saw the trailer, I knew that I wanted to see the film. After such a horrendous viewing yesterday (see: The Ganzfeld Haunting – actually don’t see it) I wanted something that I would enjoy. I thought about watching a classic to bring me back but after looking at my shelves, I decided I wanted to continue the year with something new but promising. I was not at all disappointed.

Becca and Tyler are two siblings who have decided to visit their grandparents for a week in an effort to give their mother a chance to become closer to her boyfriend. Their father abandoned the family years before and she has been a wreck so the kids agree to go stay with their grandparents. The elderly in question have never met their grandchildren because the mother had a falling out before her children were born. Things start off wonderfully with the children and grandparents getting along swimmingly but it isn’t long before the children realize something is wrong. The grandmother and grandfather begin to act increasingly erratic, and although they each explain that the other is just old, it soon becomes apparent that there is something far more going on. Told through the lenses of Becca’s cameras (she is an aspiring filmmaker bent on creating a documentary about her mother and grandparents’ falling out), we are presented with a slow discovery that ultimately leads to a satisfying, although altogether somewhat predictable ending.

This film has been referred to as a return to form for Shyamalan and I have to say that in certain aspects, I agree. It is paired down, simple, and effective. The genre he is playing with is not altogether new but in trading the classic creepy kid for creepier old people works well for his film. Also, he ventures into the found-footage genre, somewhere that many, MANY people have gone to in recent years. Luckily, this feels less like a Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch Project rip-off and more organic in its own construction. Also, returning to low-budget film creation ($5 million) has really seemed to help Shyamalan recapture his hold on the humanistic qualities that permeated his earlier works.

The cast is wonderful. Both children are talents who deserve a lot of credit for the success of the film and hopefully will pull in more roles now because of their performances. Olivia DeJonge, playing Becca, gives us a character who is incredibly intelligent but is struggling mightily with feeling insignificant since her father left. The scene in which her brother asks her about never looking in the mirror is moving and perfectly portrayed. Ed Oxenbould, playing Tyler, is the comedic relief of the film. He is great at playing the little brother and is both annoying and relatable in the way he should be. He was great, especially when he was freestyle rapping about random topics. In fact, stay tuned for the very end in which he lays out a sweet freestyle about the film as a whole. It is ridiculous and funny and perfect for his character. Also, the addition of Tyler replacing curse words with female pop star names is a nice touch.

Both of the grandparents are also wonderful. Peter McRobbie plays PopPop with a reserved, confused nature. He comes across as caring and worried and when things start to change, it is drastic because he has been the sane one. On the other hand, coming through with vibrant crazy is Deanna Dunagan who plays Nana. She is strange, disturbing, and all together terrifying in most parts of the film. Whether she is simply staring blankly, crawling creepily around the house in the dark, or laughing hysterically at nothing, she is the force which keeps us on the edge of our seats the entire film.

Overall, this may not be perfect and it may not reach the same level of success as The Sixth Sense but The Visit is a great representation of the skill that Shyamalan still possesses. If he continues to put out work like this, I will remain a fan. I never really lost my faith but The Happening did shake my resolve. This film inspires such confidence that I cannot wait to see Split, Shyamalan’s next film. If you haven’t had a chance to see The Visit yet, you need to check it out. Just don’t eat any chocolate pudding while viewing…you’ll find out why.

Image - IMDb

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