The latest caught-on-camera film comes with some baggage, while the trailer gives the impression that this is your typical PG-13 horror movie. This one is directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs). I will attempt, at least for a bit to refrain from making this review all about M. Night’s rise to fame, and fall to a realm beyond movie jail. Okay. Now I will try, starting…now.
Becca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould) are visiting their grandparents for the first time since their mother (Kathryn Hahn) left home at nineteen, on bad terms. When they arrive, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) seem like the pleasant old couple that they hoped for. With way too clever Tyler and Becca filming everything as part of a documentary the kids begin to notice their grandparents are not all that they seem. Things go from a little creepy and strange to just short of terrifying as the end of their weeklong visit can’t end soon enough.
I will give the film credit for attempting to make a really good scary movie, but they ended up making ‘just another’ scary movie and all that that implies. There are the properly placed jump-scares, there are cringe-worthy moments, the gross-out moments, of course the ‘the call is coming from inside the house’ moment, and how can you leave out the ‘don’t go in there’ scenes. That’s the biggest problem with “The Visit”, it does every thing we’ve seen before, there are some good scares, I can think of the one that takes place under the house. There are some decent laughs delivered mostly by Oxenbould. But there is not much else, and if any other director made this film I would say, it’s their first film, or their first horror film. This once again was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who knows, or knew how to generate tension, how to scare, and how to execute his signature twist. Here it looks as though he’s going through the motions, and working to fit everything into a nice PG-13 box.
Maybe this is his step back away from big-budget, CG-fests, with A-list talent. I always thought that even as terrible as “The Happening” was, it seemed that there was more to explore with having to stay in a house with a creepy old woman. Nana (Dunagan) is truly the bright spot of the movie, but even she can’t make up for the kids who don’t act like kids unless the movie dictates them to. And the tired troupes that fill this entire movie left me believing that this movie was not meant for me, or meant for horror fans even, but the 13 year-old who’s first horror movie they get to see. It also feels like this is a safe bet financial wise for Shyamalan, seeing as how Blumhouse Productions horror films range from 3 to 5 million to produce, they usually always turn a profit. If only he was truly interested in turning in a really good film.
–Robert L. Castillo