Thursday, October 13, 2016

#2,220. The Visit (2015)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan

Tag line: "No one loves you like your grandparents"

Trivia: This was M. Night Shyamalan's lowest budgeted studio feature film

Alright, I’m just gonna say it: The Visit scared the hell out of me!

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this 2015 movie follows brother and sister Rebecca and Tyler Jamison (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) as they journey to a small Pennsylvania town to spend a week with their estranged grandparents. Their mother Paula (Kathryn Hahn) had left home 15 years earlier to marry the kids’ father, a man her parents didn’t like, and she hasn’t spoken to either of them since. Even after the marriage fell apart (he left her for another woman), Paula stubbornly refused to reconcile with her mother and father.

Then, out of the blue, they contact her, asking if they could meet their grandchildren. So, after saying their goodbyes, Rebecca and Tyler climb aboard a train and head off to spend time with an elderly couple they have never met.

Greeting the youngsters at the train station, their grandparents, who they call Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie), then drive Rebecca and Tyler to the remote farmhouse that has been their home since Paula was a child. A novice filmmaker, Rebecca brought along several cameras to document their visit, and at first things seem to go well.

Once the sun goes down, however, Nana becomes a different person, roaming the halls in the nude and acting as if she is a wild animal. Pop-Pop tries to allay the kids' fears, telling them Nana suffers from a rare medical condition that only affects her at night. But when things go from bad to worse, and pop-pop also gets a little weird, the youngsters find themselves wondering just how dangerous their grandparents truly are.

There are a few things about The Visit you should know before going into it. First, it’s a found footage horror film. While making her documentary, Rebecca’s cameras capture the events as they spiral out of control. Also, the kids are dealing with their share of trauma as well, especially abandonment issues (due to their father’s leaving), and have strong, sometimes off-putting personalities. Rebecca is very intelligent, and talks as if she has swallowed a Thesaurus, while Tyler considers himself a hip-hop artist, and raps (not very well, mind you) throughout the movie. Yet none of the above detracts from the horror that Shyamalan slowly unleashes on his audience. In fact, thanks to the excellent performances delivered by the two youngsters, I came to like Rebecca and Tyler, and my fears for their safety grew more intense with each passing scene.

Yet it’s Deanna Dunagan’s turn as Nana that makes The Visit so damn terrifying. Though told to stay in their room after 9:30 p.m., the kids do, for various reasons, wander out after that time.  The first night, Rebecca spots Nana vomiting profusely while walking around downstairs. Pop-pop tells Rebecca that Nana had contracted a 24-hour virus, but that doesn’t explain her behavior the second night. With Nana close by, even a simple game of hide-and-seek can be a horrifying experience, and the scene where she asks Rebecca to climb into an oven to clean it is positively nerve-racking. McRobbie is also quite good as the kindly but oft-confused grandfather, yet it’s Dunagan’s Nana who will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.

Like many, I’ve been disappointed with M. Night Shyamalan’s recent offerings. The Happening was a mess, and the less said about After Earth, the better. The jury is still out as to whether The Visit will rank alongside The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village as one of the director’s best movies. But it is, at the very least, a return to form, and for the first time in a while I can’t wait to see what M. Night Shyamalan comes up with next.

No comments: