The Visit (2015)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
By now, everyone should be aware of M. Night Shyamalans tricks. From his earliest movies he's carried a familiar style culminating in a divisive, twist ending. His style has gotten more worn over time, and The Visit is certainly in keeping... it's an expectedly disappointing horror romp, regardless of the story and character development.
Paula Jamison, until recently, hasn't spoken to her parents in 15 years, because of an argument over her then-boyfriend (who would become her husband and father both of her children) which caused her to leave and never talk to them. Her kids, Rebecca and Tyler, want to meet and spend time with their grandparents, also giving their mom some time to relax with her new boyfriend. The movie opens with Paula taking the young, teenaged siblings to the train station, where they'll head to their grandparents' farm for a week. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker, and brings along two video cameras to make a documentary out of the weeklong trip to help Paula reunite with her parents. They start to bond, and Pop-pop informs them that they go to bed at 9:30. The first night, Becca sees their grandma throwing up; Pop-pop says that she had a quick flu, but as the week continues each grandparents' behavior gets continually weirder and more suspect, eventually prompting the siblings to ask their mom to come get them.
As the movie opens we're introduced to the fact that Becca wants to document their trip, letting us know that it'll be a shakily recorded, found-footage film... and also that there will be extensive stretches of boring, expositional nothingness. The result is shaky boringness and horrible photography. That kind of found footage, handheld, the-movie-you're-watching-is-filmed-by-the-characters-themselves gimmick wears off exceptionally fast, along with other film gimmicks, like the quirky kids (Tyler is a self-proclaimed rapper and gives a couple cringeworthy raps), and the wannabe-film-school Becca. The concept here isn't terrible, but it ends up feeling badly executed. It would've been better to use normal photography and splicing in shots from the kids' cameras, because the found footage shtick is so worn out and altering it just a little does nothing to change that.
The story moves along drastically slow, featuring Shyamalan's penchant for excessive character development, and proves to be much more of a drama with an underpinning mystery story to cap things off. Paula has been heartbroken ever since her sweetheart left, while maintaining her begrudging distance from her parents; Becca and Tyler both have long-lasting issues because of their father leaving, each of them blaming their father for problems they have. Becca holds onto her resentment, explaining for her documentary that she refuses to show any footage of her father, and Tyler blames himself, because of a prominent memory, for his leaving. So while the horror story of the creepy grandparents is what the movie's billed as it actually plays second fiddle to the story of finding closure after their father's desertion. This could've been a mediocre family drama or a mediocre, modern horror but is instead a tragic mashup of both, culminating in two, nearly equally disappointing endings.
Up until the climactic 10 or 15 minutes, the mystery and suspense is few and far between, with Shyamalan apparently trying to create an atmosphere where the lack of anything happening and odd pauses are why the situation is scary, but Paranormal Activity beat that dead horse already. It's almost like Shyamalan wrote a family drama and then stuck his hand into a pile of horror ideas. It probably would've been better to speed up the suspense, because Becca's documentary counts down the days of their trip, so we know when events are going to come to a head. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, nothing's actually going to happen, regardless of what the music would have us believe.
The most redeeming factor for the overall disappointing experience is the well-written and laid out story. Looking back, the hints and the mystery is so well planned that it seems unforgivable for the rest of the production to be so lackluster. The story concerning the creepy grandparents is spot on and a fabulous message regarding mental health, but could've served better as a straight up thriller without the mystery and creepiness.
TL;DR: Shyamalan certainly has tremendous skill in creating his characters and plotting out events, but his pacing seems to have slowed as of late. While The Visit isn't a terrible movie-watching experience, it's certainly not great and won't serve as Shyamalan's triumphant return to cinema. His resume will still never get better than Sixth Sense or Unbreakable.
- Acting – 14 / 20
- Story – 10 / 20
- Cinematography – 2 / 20
- Soundtrack – 2 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 5 / 10
- Drama/Suspense – 4 / 10
- Other – 8 / 10