How the mighty can fall. At one point M. Night Shyamalan had Hollywood at his feet. With The Sixth Sense he created a film that people are still talking about and referencing fifteen years later. But with each new project his star seemed to wane, each film trying to cash in on that twist. After big money flops The Last Airbender and After Earth, a film that seemingly dragged Will Smith’s star power down with it, Shyamalan had to get back to his roots.
So The Visit is a creepy little horror film, you know, like The Sixth Sense started out. But there’s no kid that sees dead people here, instead a pseudo Hansel and Gretel type story of kids and their grandparents all shot in a Blair Witch Project found footage format. It’s a horror form so tried and tested it can only mean one thing: either Shyamalan thinks he has a way of reinventing it or he’s so bereft ideas that he’s willing to try anything to get back to the big time.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) live with their mother after their father walked out on all them. When the kids are invited to stay with their mother’s estranged parents they jump at the chance. Meeting Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) they seem like the picture perfect grandparents but before long Nana is showing signs of being unstable and Pop Pop is spending too much time in the wood shed.
So here’s the first thing you need to go into The Visit knowing, and no it isn’t the age old question of why the protagonists continue to film while all hell is breaking loose around them. It’s that Tyler, the obnoxious little germaphobe teenager also goes by the name of T-Dawg, or T-Star or some equally terrible name and he raps. Yes you read that right, one of the most terrifying and inexplicable things about The Visit is that this annoying little up-start feels the need to rap about various things that are happening in the most irritating and pointless manner possible. The only up side to this is that you spend most of the movie hoping he’ll die.
There are one or two moments that chill in The Visit, one scene in particular sees Tyler and Becca playing hide and seek under the crawl space of the house only for Nana to get involved in a genuinely freaky way. But for the most part it does nothing you haven’t seen countless times before. It’s so generic you wonder how Shyamalan is involved, is he really willing to play it this safe? But more than anything when the twist does come, as you always know it will, it feels like something taken straight from the annuls of an episode of Murder She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder.
A film with genuinely awful characters and a story and narrative device that leads to nowhere The Visit is a trip to avoid.