M. Night Shyamalan shines by going back to the basics
Director M. Night Shyamalan has made quite the name for himself. He’s earned earned praise with works such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” only to mostly squander that goodwill away with bombs like “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.” There’s no denying he’s talented, but it seems that the execution can be less than desired.
By returning to the basics with the horror-thriller-comedy “The Visit,” however, Shyamalan shows once again what’s he capable of: unnerving suspense wrapped in thrilling mystery moving both agonizingly slow and blisteringly quick. Oh, and with some hilarity thrown in just to break the tension (or make it all the worse).
Sparse in setting from start to finish, “The Visit” centers around a pair of teenage siblings — Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) — who are sent to their grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania. The twist (because every Shyamalan has a few of them): They have never met their grandparents, as Mom (Kathryn Hahn) cut ties with them when she was 19. So you can understand the children’s anxious excitement to meet Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie).
So off the kids go on their adventure to rural Pennsylvania, cameras in hand (because “The Visit” is shot found-footage style). And at first, everything seems just hunky-dory. But, as would be expected in a Shyamalan horror flick, the mood starts to take a darker tune. First, it’s a strict 9:30 p.m. curfew, but then Nana starts roaming the halls, making the most horrid noises. And there’s just shed out back that’s just begging for exploration, but you know nothing good will come of it.
But, old people being old, the grandparents say! Yeah, sure, but none of my grandmothers ever asked me to get completely into an oven — and that’s hardly the creepiest thing that happens on this farm. There’s even rapping!
In the end, whether you figure out what’s going on in “The Visit” before the reveal, Shyamalan shows he’s still capable of creating a tense, creepy atmosphere while keeping you in suspense all the while. The film is hardly award-winning or one-of-a-kind, but it’ll do the trick for most anyone looking for a scary thrill — through it may make future visits to the grandparents a little awkward.
Three “Don’t go in there!” stars out of five.