The Visit (Horror, Thriller, 2015) (18) D: M Night Shyamalan W: M Night Shyamalan C: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn. 1h 34m. USA.
Synopsis : A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.
This unusual chilling found footage drama is actually quite an interesting comeback for M Night Shyamalan. Seeming to pull away from the farcical fantasies that he’s produced lately this is a first in both being a film he’s not present in and his first found footage style movie.
Playing on several horror themes such as visiting strange old creepy family members as well as potential supernatural/haunting style disturbances the film, is cloaked in lots of mysteries as well as having a jovial fun side added in by the two children who are making the film.
Starting at a gradual pace with a woman talking about how she left her parents’ home a s young teen and never returning she shows some bitterness that her parents are now Councillors and have made contact over the internet with and want to see their grandchildren. She’s now getting into a relationship after a messy divorce and the children agree to visits the grands and give her some time alone. Obviously the kids Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Becca (Olivia DeJonge) are budding directors/rappers and want to film the entire event and investigate what happened when their mother left. The kids travels to their parents is quite interesting and allows the viewer to get used to the crappy camera angles and the characters as they interview people on the train and each other. Once they get to the grandparents’ house all sorts of crazy shit starts to take place and they start to dig at their mother’s past and get constantly freaked out by their folks “Sundowning” other bizarre and questionable habits and outburst.
Being a found footage movie there is a host of strange camera angles and no soundtrack. But beyond that, we’re treated to some really cool freakish scenes, all done with real acting and no obvious enhancements. There aren’t too many found footage sin’s to mention, check out the list here.
For a lot of the movie you have to keep remembering that it’s a couple of young children here who are going through a fairly traumatic with two very peculiar old folk. They have regular input from their mother via skype but the camera on the laptop is damaged by grandma accidentally getting flour on it and trying to clean it off with oven cleaner. There are lot of little accidents that happen to both electronic equipment and bodily functions that are often put down to age. Most of the best scenes happen at night, the aged folk go to bed at 9.30 the children soon learn to lock their door because that’s when the “sundowning” starts. One of the funniest scenes is when the kids can hear scratching outside their door at night and eventually after some persuasion they open it and see grandma naked clawing at the door opposite theirs, they quickly shut the door and Tyler announces “I am blind!!”
The film was originally going to be called Sundowing, which is a real occurrence that does answer a few of the issues here but I don’t really suspect that sufferers of Sundowning go this ape shit.
While the film is a representation of a cam film made by children trying to make a documentary, some of it doesn’t feel like children made it, certain scenes don’t appear to be filmed by something you’d buy and give to children, other scenes seemed chucked in to force the viewer to believe that film has been made by kids for instance in one scene Tyler accidentally turns on the auto zoom while interviewing his sister and she slowly slides out of the shot, ingenious but just looked naff.
I felt from the first instance I thought that the ideal butt naked crazy grandmother would have been Lyn Shaye, she really is an ideal actress for this film, then in every scene afterwards I just imagined her acting all crazy as in Dead End (2003) or 2001 Maniacs A Field of Screams (2005) There is so many difference in this film compared to other M Night movies, usually he will use actors multiple times but as far as I could see it was all new faces, and with this new format he seemed out of his depths and detached from the actors.
It’s hard not to talk about the tragedy that M Night was becoming at the box office, after massive success with his first movies it soon translated into some very shoddy well hated train wrecks for me The Happening (2008) really was the last nail in coffin. The Visit does claw back and displays his ability to make a good film, even with his stereotypical twist at the end and it’s awesome to catch it a second time around. Without making a huge list of mistakes in the category of found footage blunders, it doesn’t thrill as much as it could. The potential of a good scare is there and while it gives a few jump scares and various unsettling scenes like grandma walking around the house vomiting at night it’s just not enough to make it truly terrifying. If this had been released a few years back then it might have been something new to the found footage genre, while it’s a good film it’s not one of the best in this field it just adds to the flavour.
A lot of found footage horrors are pretty much the same, while the visit is slightly askew and tries to be more original it doesn’t really open any new doors into the genre. You might see this film as a test of endurance, as it takes forever to really give a showdown to the sundowners. There are lots of found footage things that you might have seen before so if you’re new to the genre then you’ll probably appreciate it more.
It doesn’t really work as found footage, it could just have been a movie about some kids who are off to see their estranged grandparents chuck in some of the surreal and unreal and who knows it could be spectacular. I think why it had an edge is only because we know what M Night is capable of, for example in one scene the bat shit crazy grandmother mentioned that he saw an aliens that spit in a pond and that the water is turning people into monsters, and Popa mentioned seeing a white figure out in the woods, knowing about Signs (2002) you start believing in alien visitations and what could happen next. Sadly by the end of the film you get tired of certain red herrings.
VERDICT: It’s an okay movie, it’s not enough to make M Night credible again but it’s not so terrible that you want to string him and beat him like a piñata… I did like the kids, and usually I want them all dead in movies, the young boy was great as a younger brother and his sister wasn’t so big headed to be the next Dakota. I didn’t see the end twist coming which is always great when something like that hits you and you don’t see it a mile off. There are some pretty disturbing scenes, bodies hanging in trees and just fucked up strange behaviour so I had a few things that kept me watching. Considering the movie was so cheap to make hey, if I was M Night I’d be happy with the results.
Rating – 6/10
R: The Taking of Debroah Logan (2014) , The Happening (2008),
5B :M Night Shalallalalayamam
L: Selected Found Footage Movies, 3 Generations in one film, Child Lead Stars
PD : Post Discussion To Come
“Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?”