The Visit Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Every family is a little quirky in their own way. Some have those uncles who tell inappropriate jokes at the wrong time, some have cousins who seem to have their style chosen by a two-year-old, and some have those relatives who learned their social skills while living alone on an island with a ball named Wilson their entire lives. Everyone has something quirky with their family. Then there are our grandparents. Bless their hearts; they do their best, but we can’t help but internally laugh at some of the things they say which could have been pulled straight from the Prohibition era. But along with odd sayings are the health aspects that come with aging. And that health is the basis for the title from the latest by M. Night Shyamalan, The Visit.

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are siblings. Their mother (Kathryn Hahn), left home when she was 19 after falling in love with a substitute teacher whom her parents didn’t approve of. She gave birth to the two children and, years later, the husband left for another woman. Because of the fight she had with her parents, she’s never spoke to them or been back. Now Becca, a budding director and documentarian, has convinced her mother to let her and her brother go visit the grandparents, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and to stay for a week. She’s going to film the entire trip, making a documentary out of it and submit it to film festivals so her young career can take off with a blast. Upon visiting the grandparents for the first time, they find them a little odd but are reassured by their mother via Skype that they are just old. But things start getting too weird with noises heard at night and things they find around the grandparent’s property. Is something more sinister going on and will the children make it through the week to share their story with their mother and the rest of the world?

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Now I know what you’re thinking. “Another M. Night Shyamalan film?!?! Oh no, you won’t fool me again, Mr. Hopeful Trailers and Bad Movies!” I thought the same thing before stepping into the screening, but this film actually delivers. With minimal characters (about five), a micro budget (five million) and a story that people can relate to, Shyamalan creates a world that is familiar and yet unfamiliar. There’s a medical condition called sundowner syndrome, which occurs in some of the elderly, where they become more confused, agitated, and aggressive at nighttime when the sun goes down. And it is put on creepy display here. Shyamalan gets wonderful performances out of his minimalist cast, where there are five actors, but the story really focuses on the main four: the children and grandparents. As things get weirder and weirder, and the children start to learn more and more, it is almost like a game of cat and mouse with the children trying to survive long enough to make it to their train to get out of there. Now, where most Shyamalan films greatly suffer is towards the end where a big plot twist is revealed and the endings flop. This time around, the plot twist is completely unexpected (like with The Sixth Sense), and absolutely makes the intensity and fear jump up exponentially (I had a chill run through me) leading to the denouement (ending), which is equally fitting.

Speaking of the acting, there are great performances across the board, albeit it a small board. DeJonge is wonderful as a young, up-and-coming filmmaker who is trying to get the story of why her mother left and what happened on that day. She’s the “adult” to her brother, in more ways than one, but behind the tougher façade is a young, scared girl who has her own insecurities and demons she has yet to deal with. Oxenbould is the comic relief of the film and firmly grasps that role and runs with it. He’s a 13-year-old high school boy who dreams of being a rapper, and puts his freestyle game out there whenever the opportunity arises. While some of the jokes and mannerisms feel forced at times (like he doesn’t really get the term but his character is supposed to), he’s very funny playing another tough kid who, when it comes to it, is just a kid beneath it all with his own fears and inner turmoil. Deanna Dunagan is great as the grandmother, bringing very uncomfortable moments and an unnerving presence to the screen throughout the film. She may make you look at your own grandmother differently from here on out. And Peter McRobbie comes off as anyone’s grandfather who has his own little quirks about him, nothing too harmful…or are they?

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With all of the bombs from M. Night Shyamalan over the last decade or so, it is understandable to be skeptical of his latest offering. However, this time Shyamalan takes it back to the basics, really focusing on a story that people can relate to and bringing in actors, mostly unfamiliar to audiences, who develop quality characters that we can attach ourselves to. There is enough comedic elements and time of deeper drama to balance itself out, with more than enough suspense and fear to make for a truly exciting and fun movie. Will The Visit be a step in the right direction for Shyamalan’s career? Time will tell, but it is off to a positive start with this little gem.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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