Cert: 15 / 94 mins / Dir. M. Night Shyamalan / Trailer
I wouldn't go so far as to call M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit a 'guilty-pleasure', but I definitely feel slightly ashamed for enjoying it as much as I did. As someone who detests found-footage horror films and is thoroughly tired of screenplays which feature The Twist™, I have to say that this still delivers the goods. To me, at least.
The film's raison d'etre behind the principal characters filming everything is a documentary project being assembled by the 15yr old Becca, as she and her 12yr old brother Tyler go to visit their estranged grandparents for the first time. Given that the tension between the kids' mother and her parents is the subject of the documentary, it's a more feasible prop than most films' 'oh, we're just filming it because we are'. Naturally with this sort of thing, the cynics among the audience are thinking 'yeah, but who's edited all the footage together?', particularly as The Visit is shot on two distinct cameras. But as the film goes on and the madness escalates, the assured-identity of the final author grows fuzzier, to the point where it begins not to matter since the best-case scenario for the ending is still years of therapy.
All of the modern-horror-genre's tricks of the trade are present: desaturated colour palettes, tight-zoom shots with audible activity happening outside of them, cellars, barns, rocking chairs and a crazy old lady asking someone to get inside the oven. Twice. And you know what? I liked the film even more for all of that, although maybe for its sheer temerity than its screenwriting skills. From a narrative point of view, The Visit is more of an elaborately told urban legend than a story-proper, and when The Twist™ arrives, it surprises no-one (although it just makes sense in explaining what's been going on). But where the film really shines is the film-making techniques it uses to great effect; whether you're rolling your eyes or gritting your teeth, you will be gripping your seat if you watch this on a big screen. While the scares may be hackneyed, the tension is unbearable, because while the protagonists are a couple of children who usually wouldn't be permanently harmed in this kind of movie, their antagonists are a couple of pensioners (and the kids are just young enough where they wouldn't make a run for it into the unknown countryside). There's nothing supernatural at play in Grandma's house, and much like Eli Roth's Hostel, the real horror lies in knowing that nothing is preventing these events from being very, very real. Humans are the monsters here.
Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are unfoldingly marvellous as the two youngsters in search of a steady wi-fi signal, and Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are wholly unsettling as Nana and Pop Pop. Kathryn Hahn puts in a solid turn as the mum-in-the-middle (well, mum-on-a-cruise-with-new-boyfriend, actually), but is mostly relegated to occasional supporting duties.
All of that said, Shyamalan's real masterstroke lies in his confirmation that the only thing more horrifying than seeing your granny running around the house naked, is a 12yr old white kid who spontaneously bursts into freestyle rapping at the drop of a hat, complete with backwards baseball cap and gangsta shapes. Jesus wept…
Well, unless you're a budding film-maker, you're only going to watch it once, so it may as well be at the cinema.
If you're watching it on a small-screen, you may as well just wait until it hits TV/Netflix.
The central cast are remarkably proficient in this.
Apart from the rapping.
From a certain point of view.
Not at all.
The film stars Peter McRobbie, who appeared in 2000's Shaft, as did Sam 'Windu' Jackson.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.