Since their mother left home as a teenager and severed all ties with her parents, 15-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) have never met their grandparents. Excited to meet their estranged grandchildren, Tyler and Becca’s Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) offer to let the kids stay with them in their small-town home while their mother takes a cruise with her new boyfriend. A budding filmmaker, Becca decides to make a documentary of the visit, but what starts as a warm (if slightly awkward) welcome, quickly turns far more terrifying than either Becca or Tyler anticipated.
When M. Night Shyamalan announced his next foray into directing would be horror flick The Visit, I think we all thought it could go one of two ways. We’ve seen Shyamalan soar spectacularly as well as fall hard in the frightening genre, and with the uninspiring spate of horror flicks coming out of Hollywood as of late, my hopes were not high.
I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. The Visit was completely, unexpectedly, entertaining from start to finish. It’s actually not at all how the trailer presents it to be – it’s not a serious horror flick by any means, in fact, it’s almost borderline a parody of the often over-dramatic genre. While there are a few scenes that will have you clutching your chest and waiting in suspense for the next scare, you’re actually going to find yourself laughing more than anything else – and quite frequently as well. M. Night Shyamalan’s screenplay is funny, and brought to life wonderfully by two unfathomably talented Australian child actors – Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould. I have raved endlessly about Ed Oxenbould before, and I will do it shamelessly again, because man! This kid is going places! His comedic timing is better than some actors three times his age, and his character is so lovable that you actually get invested in the siblings and their unusual plight.
What I especially love about The Visit is that it feels like a far more realistic representation of how people would truly act if they found themselves in a terrifying situation. It shows the light and shade of both the hilarity and the terror you would feel if you were confronted by something completely odd and unexplainable, where most horrors focus too much on the fear (and the running and screaming). I have also talked again and again of my utter disdain for found footage, but this is by far the best use of found footage I have ever seen. It is by no means believable – there are a few camera angles that don’t make sense, and there’s a lot less shaky camera footage than there probably should be – but at least it’s watchable, and the hand-held effect doesn’t make you nauseous.
There are a few inconsistencies across the board that bring down the overall success of the film, but even so I would 100% recommend a trip to see The Visit, just to experience the sheer unexpectedness of it. It’s a film unlike any other and surprising in all the right ways.