THE VISIT Review: New Day for M. Night Shyamalan?

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the visit reviewBy Staci Layne Wilson
@StaciWilson

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca Jamison (Olivia De Jonge) is making a movie about her family. Dad is out of the picture, but there’s Mom (Kathryn Hahn) and Becca’s precocious little brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). Plus there’s Grandma (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie), the out-of-state elderly grandparents no one has seen since Mom left their house at 19, pregnant and in love with an older man not approved.

Determined to get the whole story of the Jamison family, Becca convinces Mom to let her go with Tyler for a weekend visit to their grandparent’s farm. Perfect timing: Mom has some vacation hours saved up, so she jumps on a cruise ship with her new boyfriend, and the kids head off across state lines into the great unknown. All of this is captured on camera as Becca films the whole journey.

The Visit starts off cute… even cutesy at times, as everyone from the train porter to fellow passengers audition for Becca, Tyler shows off his overly audacious rap rhyming skills, and the kids just basically cut up, bicker with the intellectual perspicuity of PhD.s, and express their excitement about meeting Grandma and Pop-Pop for the very first time. Finally, the train pulls into the station, and they’re met with open arms and fresh baked cookies. The adventure begins.

Grandma and Pop-Pop seem a little weird off the bat, but those things can be explained away as elderly eccentricities… until they can’t. When Granny asks Becca to get all the way inside the oven to clean it, and when Tyler catches Pop-Pop cleaning the barrel of his gun with his tongue, well… that’s just too bizarre. They decide it’s time to cut the trip short, despite the fact Becca hasn’t gotten all the interviews she needs. But guess what? Their ghoulish grandparents aren’t willing to let them go just yet… or maybe, ever.

At times, the movie veers into unbelievable extremes (in comedy, horror, and the gross-out factor), which softens the impact of what could have been a triumphant return to his roots for writer director M. Night Shyamalan. While it’s hard for any filmmaker to live up to his/her own first success, Shyamalan has failed more spectacularly than most… I mean, did anyone really like his last, oh say, five movies? I didn’t.

Having said that, The Visit is a step up. Bolstered by the Blumhouse house of horrors production company, the flick has a lot going for it. What’s more, the de rigueur Shyamalan twist is one that even I didn’t see coming; it was pretty slick. And I enjoyed the movie as it was unfolding – thanks especially to leads De Jonge and Oxenbould. They’re utterly watchable. But this is one of those fright flicks that doesn’t hold up to post-credits scrutiny. As you go back over everything, and the dots don’t connect (unlike, say, the cleverly-crafted The Sixth Sense).

Overall, I do recommend The Visit. It’s a wild ride with more than a few thrills along the way – and some rather hilarious pop-poetry from an 11-year-old wannabe rapper.

Rated PG13
Running Time: 94 minutes

Get times and tickets at Fandango.com.

THE VISIT Review: New Day for M. Night Shyamalan?

 

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on StaciLayneWilson.com

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