Review: The Visit

A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.

A strong cast struggle to make themselves stand out in ‘The Visit’, a new found footage/mockumentary effort which sees ‘The Sixth Sense’ director M. Night Shyamalan make a return to the horror genre. Telling the tale of Tyler and Rebecca (Olivia De Jonge and Ed Oxenbould) and their decision to document a visit to their estranged grandparents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie)’s house, it’s mostly predictable jump-scare fare, and a frustrating tangle of wasted potential.

As Tyler and Rebecca ready themselves for the journey, it’s evident De Jonge and Oxenbould have commendable chemistry, but the dialogue they’re saddled with in the film’s opening third is a little too clunky and over-written to really give them room to breathe. It’s a problem that plagues the film for the duration, and similarly hampers the quietly sinister edge to Dunagan and McRobbie’s performances as the grandparents. It’s a fatal issue that stops the film from ever really getting out of first gear, and as Tyler and Rebecca’s elderly hosts’ behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and their suspicions are aroused, it becomes apparent that Shyamalan hasn’t done enough groundwork for the audience to really engage with the material when it counts here.

While the tension starts to rise a little in the film’s final act, more frustrations await: a twist is invariably thrown into the mix (this is a Shyamalan film, after all) which, while ranking among the director’s less moronic plot contrivances, is poorly dealt with. Furthermore, attempts to dial up the suspense are undercut by a selection of scenes that are bizarrely and weakly played for laughs. Elsewhere, the scares are predictable at best, lazy at worst, and virtually never earned. Ultimately, as well-acted and neatly put together as it is, this is still a visit that outstays its welcome.

I think it was Adam Carolla who first asked at what point did the line “From the Mind Of M. Night Shyamalan” become less a marketing plus and more a warning about the film. To be fair, he has a valid point. For the last 15 years I’ve had a love hate relationship with the directors work.. to be fair mostly hate. After the brilliant Wayward Pines I was hoping he was back on top form in the horror genre. I was wrong – so so wrong.

The Visit is Shyamalan’s attempt at the found footage genre, but instead of an inexplicably edited together tape of people being killed – the Visit is shot and edited on the basis of a documentary being made by a 15 year old. At points the film perfectly nails this vibe, it feels like something a 15 year old would make. At others it goes incredibly dark and the comments of the children seem strange, overwritten and forced considering their situations. By the climax of the film however – the high quality cameras conveniently placed, held on to, or ‘dropped’ in position & in focus (every time!) becomes more and more obvious and the ‘found footage’ starts to feel more and more contrived. How a camera can be used as a sledgehammer against a door and keep running with no issues is anyones guess. The Visit’s plot could be argued as a re- imagining of the Poe short The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and also in that vein the twist is so obvious (and previously over used) you could only not see it coming if you had fallen asleep in the first 10 minutes.

The cast, with the exception of the woefully underused mother is made up of 4 underwhelming performances, the grandparents insist on performing with such other the top aplomb it just ruined the film. The grandmothers (Deanna Dunagan) performance in particular was just so ridiculous from start to finish it would have screamed ‘leave now’ to any rational person. I cannot even begin to tell you how frustrated and annoyed I was getting with the film. By an hour in, I desperately wanted to get up and walk out. After another 10 minutes I almost wish I had.

It’s fair to say I was incredibly indifferent to watching this movie, I can take or leave the work of M Night Shyamalan despite respecting how good a movie The Sixth Sense was. Even the trailer didn’t interest me and here I was thinking here is another generic horror movie that will soon be forgotten.

THE VISIT tells the tale of two grandchildren who are sent to stay with their grandparents whom they have never met before due to a family dispute between them and their mother. There is itself is a huge plot hole, hey we have never spoken for years but do you mind looking after my kids for a week please? Seriously?

Anyway back to the story, as the kids arrive the grandparents become more and more erratic in their behaviour especially after it goes dark. What could have been a good movie falls apart very quickly as this potential is never built upon, the behaviour whilst odd never builds up any sense of fear or tension and it doesn’t feel like a real horror movie.

Is it enjoyable? Well certain parts of it, there were times it made me laugh and the two children steal the show and they have a fabulous on-screen chemistry and that is what is good about it. Balance that out with a poor story that isn’t remotely scary and two grandparents that you could have just easily walked away from once they began acting so weird and it just doesn’t add up. It isn’t a terrible movie, it is adequate and at times enjoyable but it just didn’t work. It’s almost like they had an idea for a story that seemed like it could work but when they came to make it is all fell apart, what started off as something that could have worked then it didn’t happen come the execution.

In the end we are left with another movie of what could have been and yet again in 2015 we ares till yet to find a good horror movie. How long can this continue for?

The Visit is out at UK cinemas from 9th September 2015





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