“M. Night Shyamalan’s return as a good director”
Those were words people spoke after the release of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, oddly enough. People were praising it all around and a reviewer that I follow, Chris Stuckmann, with whom I agree quite a lot, gave it a B. So I was generally pretty excited when the film hit Netflix over here since I wasn’t able to go see it in theaters at its release. And I have to say, I was pretty disappointed.
In The Visit, we meet two kids who get sent to their grandparents to stay there for the week. One of the kids, Becca, is an aspiring filmmaker, who’s making a documentary about their stay, which now gives us a found footage film. The film is marketed as a horror/comedy. Okay, so this means that the film should be funny and scary then. Was it so? Well, it was funny, but at the wrong moments and as far as the scary aspect of the film goes… That wasn’t a success either. Except if you count the shock that goes through your body when there’s a jump scare as a good scare. When there were supposed to be creepy scenes, they didn’t land at all and came over as rather comedic. Take for example the part where Becca has to crawl into the oven to clean it, commanded by her creepy grandmother. Ok, so let’s accept that she does this once, but then she does this a second time later in the movie after she’s already learned that the grandparents she’s staying with aren’t exactly the sanest people on planet earth and could easily want to kill you. It makes no sense, much like the movie itself: It’s just plain stupid at times. And the execution of that scene was handled extremely bad, which made it very comedic to watch.
So we’ve established that the film wasn’t really scary, was it funny then? Well, if you think stupid and cringy is funny, then yes, but if you have some sense of humor, then unfortunately no. They rely a lot on a small kid being the comedic relief who’s often rapping in the whitest way possible, haha, so funny, isn’t it? No, it’s extremely cringy and annoying. So evidently, since him rapping isn’t funny or entertaining to watch, you’d hope that there’s just one scene involving him rapping, but no. They dedicate three or four different sequences to him just rapping. Three or four. That are three or four scenes too many to my taste. Another type of humor utilized by the little kid was instead of using curse words, he would use celebrity names, isn’t that hilarious? No. The way they introduce the point of which on forward he would be doing this was handled very badly and felt forced, just to call back on at a later point in the film.
The cinematography was really inconsistent; it would either be a very good-looking shot, or a horrendous looking shot, where there was no attention to framing and shot composition whatsoever. The latter was most of the time the case. And yes, the movie is supposedly made by children, but that’s no excuse for delivering an ugly looking movie. At least it wasn’t continuous shaky cam, which made everything relatively easy to follow.
I do have to give some credit to the actors, especially the kid. While they portrayed annoying characters, they were still able to act convincingly even with the material given. It’s not that they could’ve done any better, so they deserve all the credit they need. The actress of Becca I found to be the standout of the entire film, delivering extremely well in scenes where they try to develop her character deeper. She was the only character I didn’t find extremely annoying, unlike her brother in the film, whose jokes was the thing that made me dislike him. The performances of the grandparents were also great and were the only thing that made the movie as creepy as it is. It’s not the jump scares or the things they do, but it’s the performance that lies behind them because the actions they do are pretty funny when meant to be scary.
I’m glad that M. Night Shyamalan took a more grounded approach to this movie, which made it more realistic and believable. There are of course quite a lot of aspects that take away said believability, but it’s there for quite some time. The story itself is simple and at the basis sounds like something that could happen. The twist wasn’t that great, but it was nonetheless a pretty good one. At least better as: it’s the wind.
In the end, The Visit fails at being what it wants to be: a horror/comedy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any redeeming qualities to the film though. The acting was surprisingly good and so was the cinematography at times. It’s most definitely not M. Night Shyamalan’s best film, but it isn’t his worst film either. It is, however, his best films since The Village so he is on the right track again, as he’s proven with Split, which was ten times better than this film. That’s why I’m giving this one a C.
Note: tomorrow “Edgar Wright”-week will start on this blog, where I’ll be writing an ode to Edgar Wright, review “Baby Driver” and rank all of his films, including “Baby Driver”