It’s impossible to approach any new M. Night Shyamalan movie without some trepidation — there have been some epically bad movies in his spiral downward from his debut hit The Sixth Sense. And, when it’s an advertised thriller, you’ll be distracted looking for and anticipating a Big Twist. So perhaps because half my brain was taken up with these aforementioned concerns, I was buffeted about by this outing, which is a curious hybrid of horror, comedy, found footage and elder-care primer.
Fifteen-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and 13-year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) set out to spend a week at the remote country house of the grandparents they have never met. Aspiring filmmaker Becca decides to turn the visit into a documentary, hence Shyamalan’s adoption of the now-dated found-footage gimmick. (This also gives Smyamalan a chance to auteur-splain about filmmaking through Becca, but it comes off more pedantic than meta.) But Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie) turn out to be odd, then troubling and finally, scary. (Oh, and also “hilarious,” if mocking various age-related infirmities is your thing.)
The Visit probably succeeds better as a comedy than a horror film. It’s got that cheerfully low-rent, domestic-gothic vibe of an old EC Comics tale, and is certainly more entertaining than Shyamalan’s recent “serious” features. It’s still kind of a misfire, filled with plot holes and tired jokes, but at least it moves along.