Years ago on the Simpsons, Homer was wondering aloud what his middle name might be. He jokes it might be M. Night Shyamalan, saying “That would be a twist worthy of his increasingly sucky films.” If I remember correctly, eerily enough, that episode aired before Lady in the Water debuted, which is the first film of his I truly disliked. Next came the Happening, which apparently was so bad some referred to it as The Crappening. After that was The Last Airbender, possibly his most critically panned film. I never saw his last two films, but it seemed this once promising career fell into oblivion.
So this past summer when the trailers were out for The Visit, they looked quite interesting, until it revealed it was directed by Shyamalan. However, it turns out The Visit was very effective, marking a comeback to form for M. Night Shyamalan.
The premise is these too pre-teen kids Rebecca and Tyler go to visit their grandparents for a week. Their mother, Paula, had longed been estranged from her parents, dating back to an incident that happened in her younger years that nobody talks about.
Both child actors are very good in their roles. Tyler is annoying at first but grows on you. He’s a young budding rapper who comes up with his own rhymes throughout the film. Rebecca is wise beyond her years with a superb vocabulary. She is a young filmmaker, and wants to make a documentary about this weekend trip and possible reconciliation between her mother and grandparents. Hence, both herself and Tyler have cameras through which we see the events of the film. The use of two cameras adds some nice touches to the found footage genre. The kids also comment a lot about how they will make the film. They discuss the different shots they can get and musical choices.
Things are very happy in the visit at first. Slowly a few things come up that appear strange, but can be dismissed as mere symptoms of old age. As events unfold there is tension at first between the siblings, as Rebecca is less open to the idea that something very strange is happening than Tyler is.
There is a subplot about the grandparents helping out at a local hospital that adds to some mystery. Eventually Rebecca agrees that something is amiss and things build to a pretty tense third act.
The Visit provides some very effective scares and tension. The two kids also have personal demons involving being abandoned by their father. They both must overcome these issues if they are to survive the situation.
After the climax come a very moving denouement. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie that was so generally scary and then so generally touching. Props to Shyamalan for making a comeback and here’s to hoping for more great Shyamalan films.