M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, is a wicked thriller which is not only unnerving but funny in so many ways. Funny is not the characteristic that we associate with thrillers but in this case, I couldn’t help but notice some interestingly designed and executed gags which are hidden within the narrative for you to find. This isn’t the sort of horror that Shyamalan is known for. I still have his Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable fresh in my memory. However what we have here is a totally different type of horror. The film starts off as a drama wherein a single mother sends in her two children to visit their grandparents. The the lady is not in good terms with her parents for having eloped with her teacher and hence is skeptical about the visit.
Once the kids reach their grandparents, they have a ball at first. However, with the passing days, they realize that all is not well with their grandparents. To start with the kids are advised not to come out of their room after 9:30 pm. They understand why that is so on a night when Becca(Olivia DeJonge) finds her grandmother projectile vomiting all around the house. Things never remain the same ever again. The kids constantly keep finding their grandparents doing strange things and a time comes when they let their mother know what was going on. She asks to see the old folks. The children show them to her through their web cam and their mother quickly tells them that the people in question are not their grandparents. She now races against time to save her children as they are held hostage by the oldies.
The Visit is more of a thriller than horror. Having said that, there are still a few sequences which are bound to give you goosebumps. The scene in the burrows of the building, where the grandmother scares the two kids terribly, the scene towards the end when the kids are taken hostage, the rampage of the old lady through the house and the climax are all edge of the seat stuff which are also going to scare the Jesus out of you. The film builds up slow but once the scares start flowing, the narrative gains momentum and the speed remains constant. There is an atmospheric err to the film which sets in from the moment the kids arrive at their grandparents. This feeling is constant. There are moments of happiness and bliss that the grandparents spend with the kids but even in these scenes you cannot help but feel a sense of uneasiness.
The performances are a high point. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould as the two kids are terrific. The horror of the film flows through their expressions and their anxiety. By the time they are captured, the tension becomes almost unbearable. The set pieces that are planned, with the kids and mostly the grandmother, works wonders because of the way they approach the scenes. Deanna Dunagan as the crazy grandmother is perfect. She is not only scary but plain out of her mind. The scene where she finds out a hidden camera and then tries to enter the kid’s room with a knife, made me watch the proceedings through a crack between my fingers. Peter McRobbie plays second feeble to the Granny but is no less crazy. He comes into his own worst by the end. Kathryn Hahn as the mother of the kids is totally believable.
The Visit is an engrossing watch for the story it has to tell, some very genuine horror, the edge of the seat thrills and wonderful performances. M. Night Shyamalan is in his elements. I have always loved his films. I feel his After Earth was wrongly panned by viewers and critics. I also feel that it was a picture of astute beauty and great depth. It was much better than many similar films of the genre that did better. Here again he brings something new to the “done to the death” horror genre and in doing so re-installs the audience’s belief in going into a horror film with newly found expectations. Yes, there may just be some more avenues to explore in the genre and Shyamalan proves that with The Visit. This is a truly different film from the run of the mills stuff and if that’s what you are looking for, then look no further. This is definitely a must watch.