Flash back to those awkward family reunions where you meet relatives you didn’t know existed for most of your life, and all the bad food they made that you had to pretend to like. Now imagine that you have to stay with two of those relatives for a week, and they come at you screaming with a knife. Welcome to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit.”
“The Visit” is a classic Shyamalan thriller. Creepy, disturbing scenes that make your skin crawl, jump scares and the twist ending viewers can always expect from his horror movies. “The Visit” is about Becca (Oliva DeJonge) and Tyler’s (Ed Oxenbould) trip to stay with their estranged grandparents. It’s an opportunity for Becca to film a documentary and ease tensions between their mom and their grandparents. No matter how hard Becca and Tyler try to enjoy their week, there is something undeniably wrong with Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie).
The movie is filmed in documentary style, in tradition with the popular “Paranormal Activity” movies. The film appears to be “unprofessional,” making the scenes seem more realistic and spontaneous. “The Visit” has a lot of scenes where a strange sound or sight is out of the camera’s frame. Shyamalan uses this technique to build suspense and leave the audience wondering — and it definitely left me on the edge of my seat. There are plenty of creative uses of camera angles, maintaining the realism of a documentary-style film. There is a scene where Becca uses her camera to break a lock. Although it’s not a perfect shot, it’s creative and keeps the scene realistic. The only downside is the obviously “forced” shots.
Dunagan and McRobbie gave outstanding performances as Nana and Pop Pop. It’s easy to believe that the two are psychotic, murderous grandparents. Their insanity creeps in subtly with major jumps that make it seem unpredictable and authentic. DeJonge and Oxenbould gave stellar performances as well. Becca and Tyler are polar opposites of each other. The plot often builds jokes around their differences. However, there may be too much awkward humor, drowning out some of the horrific elements.
“The Visit” tries a little too hard to build multiple themes and back story into the plot. It was persistent in telling me who Becca and Tyler were and the lessons they must learn instead of just showing me. I can usually appreciate a multi-layered plot, but the audience is here to see a movie that will scare them silly, not a life lesson about domestic troubles.
While “The Visit” has its setbacks, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I was relieved to see a good movie from M. Night Shyamalan after his disastrous projects, including “The Last Airbender” and “The Happening.” IMDb gives it a 6.9 out of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 60 percent. On my own scale, I’d give it a 6.5 out of 10.