Before you read this review I want to warn you, while there are no real spoilers, this is a film that if you are even remotely interested in seeing then you should avoid knowing as little about it as possible. Trust me. I really want you to read this review, but I also want you to see this movie with completely fresh eyes if you’re going to watch it. Just… think about it. If you still want to know more, read on.
Official Film Synopsis: “Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable) and producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Insidious series) welcome you to Universal Pictures’ The Visit. Shyamalan returns to his roots with the terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a week-long trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.”
When they say in the synopsis that Shyamalan “returns to his roots”, they hit the nail right on the head. The Visit is one of the smaller stories he’s written in recent years, but it packs a surprisingly big punch full of heart, and humor that I did not expect AT ALL. The film is shot faux-documentary style, and through the eyes of the young protagonists, sister & brother team, Rebecca and Tyler Jamison. It’s these two characters that bring all that “heart and humor” I mentioned, as they film their trip and first meeting with their estranged grandparents.
After a couple days and nights at Nana’s and Pop-Pop’s house, the kids realize that everything is not copacetic, and they decide to focus their attention on figuring out what’s really happening with their grandparents, but what they discover is more disturbing than anything they could’ve imagined.
All of the performances are fantastic. Peter McRobbie (Boardwalk Empire, Netflix’s Daredevil) and Deanna Dunagan (House of Cards, Private Practice) play the grandparents, and they’re both fantastic. McRobbie is deceptively sinister as Pop Pop, and Dunagan is creepy and unsettling as Nana. It’s not that old people are just naturally bizarre or anything, but both actors do a great job of making what should be normal elderly behavior feel so damn hair-raising.
The most recognizable member of the cast is Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers, This Is Where I Leave You, Tomorrowland), who plays the kids’ mother. While shes more known for her comedic roles, Hahn has an amazing talent for dramatic moments and there a few here that take you by surprise.
Certainly though, the most flawless performances come from Olivia DeJonge (Hiding, The Sisterhood of Night) and Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), who play the afformentoned children, Becca and Tyler. Tyler is an aspiring rapper who idolized the likes of Tyler, the Creator (he gets 100 points for good taste) and Becca is an aspiring documentary filmmaker.
DeJonge is perfect in her role as the older, wiser sister. She’s very focused and always remains calm, even when things get really creepy and uncomfortable. She’s always looking out for Tyler, but she’s not above giving him the appropriate amount of older sibling shit, when necessary. Oxenbould… look, I’m just gonna say this… he’s literally the BEST part of the movie. He’s the reason it’s so damn funny, and he’s an intuitive enough actor to play it so that you’re laughing *with* him, even when you think you’re laughing *at* him. About 20 minutes, maybe less, into the movie I looked over at my friend Nick and said, “He’s already my favorite part of this movie.” Nick agreed. There’s just something about the films humor, and the way that particular character pulls you in. It’s never accidentally cheesy or trying too hard. The comedy is unexpected, but it 100% works.
As I previously mentioned, the film is shot in a faux-documentary/home movie style. It’s produced by Blumhouse Productions, who are responsible for the Paranormal Activity, Sinister, and The Purge films. I’m actually a huge fan of the faux-documentary style horror genre, and this one absolutely stands out as clever and original.
I don’t want to say much more, for fear of ruining the film for you, but I will say this… the twist at the end was scarier than anything I could’ve conjured up in my imagination. It’s like The Sixth Sense in that, once you see it, you begin going back through the film in your mind and recalling all the things that should’ve been clues. But, unlike The Sixth Sense, you pretty much already know a twist is coming and I personally figured it out about 30 seconds before they “revealed” it. However, I’m not saying that to boast because I kind of got the impression that they wanted it that way. The breadcrumbs get bigger and more obvious. It’s almost like Shyamalan just went back and read all the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” books and was like, “I’m gonna write my own!” (Did you ever read those books?! They scared the $H!+ out of me when I was a kid! Hell, as an adult, I’ve seen brutal and terrifying horror films that haven’t disturbed me as much as most of the stories in those books.)
I know that the SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER BOX OFFICE is over and people aren’t going to the movies as much now, but if you’re a horror movie fan and this movie is on your radar, then I highly recommend seeing it in the theater with a crowd. Seeing it that way really made the experience so much better, with everyone laughing and wincing in fear at the same times. Also, there were people yelling at the screen when I saw it, and I STRONGLY ADVISE YOU SEE IT THIS WAY. No Sarcasm at all. In fact, be the person yelling at the screen if you have to. Let’s start a revolution! Viva la Scary-Ass-Grandmas!