Nana’s acting strange.
It’s a been a long drought for director M. Night Shymalan. After an incredible early career, it seemed the spark was lost behind a ten-year stretch of cinematic mediocrity. M. Night’s credibility withered as each poorly executed film flashed and faded from the silver screens. Fans of his, like myself, have spent those ten years reveling in his earliest films, hoping for a day when the prodigal director would find his genius once again…
It seems that day has come.
At its core, M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit is a return to form. Back in his comfort zone, M. Night has managed to pull off something truly special: a film that is genuinely terrifying, hilariously comedic, and ironically touching.
The film centers around two young children, who despite their mother’s hesitation, travel to visit their estranged grandparents. Adopting the “found footage” perspective type, The Visit delivers its story from the intimate viewpoint of our protagonists. As each slow-building, claustrophobic shot stretches on, the audience gradually realizes that this is no ordinary visit to grandma’s. What follows is a tense thriller with loads of humor and a surprisingly huge amount of heart.
Young actors Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould have incredible chemistry. Their relationship as brother and sister is overwhelmingly convincing as the duo delivers each line with candid authenticity and emotion. This is enhanced by the handheld camera feel of the photography, giving each scene a sense raw observation. The Visit rarely, if ever, strays into gimmicky territory, though. The film does a fantastic job of justifying each shot.
As I watched, I felt as trapped as our two main characters did, but never exasperated. The Visit was truly haunting. The horror itself was a repackaging of familiar childhood fears, taking the familiar things in life and making them terrifying. But the humor gave even the most nerve-wracking moments a twisted kind of whimsy. I laughed a lot. Though most of the time, it was nervous laughter. I found this refreshing in terms of many horror films. When I left the theater, I didn’t feel trampled on. Somehow, I felt enlightened.
This, of course, was mostly due to The Visit‘s beautifully executed ending. Though the conclusion was little heavy-handed, M. Night managed to sow an astonishing message into what would otherwise be just a “really good” horror flick. Instead, The Visit excels as a heart-wrenching tale about facing one’s past and finding forgiveness.
M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit is a true return to form for the director. The way it utilizes humor, terror, and heart make it something truly worthy of our attention and praise. Though the ending airs on the obnoxious side of things, it ultimately harbors a wave of emotion that will inevitably touch the hearts of audiences in a truly deep way.