In "The Visit," there are at least indications that a once great suspense master has his head in the right place again. After spending years developing bad projects on his own ("The Happening") or serving as a hired hand for other people's bad movies ("After Earth"), there are shades of M. Night Shyamalan's former self who turned the screws of tension so well in "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable." I'm not saying "The Visit" is all that good, unless you're just after some cheap jump scares, but Shyamalan at least does the right thing in putting the emphasis on building characters to enhance the tension and thereby putting more at stake.
But there's still quite a bit that doesn't work - most of it, actually.
It's a story predicated on dumb decisions by the key players: a mother allows her two young kids to go visit her parents who she's refused to speak to for close to two decades so she can go on a cruise with her boyfriend. (Mother of the Year voting committee, take notice).
And it turns out they're really weird and creepy - especially after dark.
Shyamalan alarmingly relies heavily on ageism with mom and the kids initially explaining away the grandparents' odd behavior because, y'know, old people are weird and off-putting, right?
Actress Deanna Dunagan gets the worst of it as grandma - asked to do some pretty demeaning things for the sake of creepiness. Certain scenes meant to inspire screams might generate laughs.
I also hate Shyamalan using the found footage motif with characters shooting the movie as a documentary. It was played out years ago.
But what I did like about "the Visit" is it's anchored by two solid performances by the kids: Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge. Good young actors are tough to find, and they're asked to carry this movie on their young shoulders. Both deserve more work.
A for Shyamalan "The Visit" isn't enough to get him out of the directors' doghouse, but there's reason to have hope for him again.
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