Release: 18th January 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) say goodbye to their mother as they board a train and head deep into Pennsylvania farm country to meet their maternal grandparents for the first time. Welcomed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), all seems well until the siblings start to notice increasingly strange behavior from the seemingly charming couple. Once the children discover a shocking secret, they begin to wonder if they’ll ever make it home.
When M. Night. Shyamalan hits his lowest ebb, it is cleary time for some serious re-evaluation. Part of that soul searching has led to the once prodigious filmmaker teaming with money making machine Blumhouse Pictures. The Visit is the fruit of said partnership; and although it is a long way from the dizzying heights of Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, this is the best shape Night has been in for about a decade.
The Visit plays with a tried and tired form of cinema vérité we like to call the found footage horror. Its scares come unexpectedly, and Night plays with our fragile little minds like a demented tilt-a-whirl operator. There’s unsettling sleep walking, under floor creeping and some seriously disturbing use of pooey diapers. The basic premise is even classic Night (part folklore, part twisted fairytale). For about 40 minutes, The Visit plays like fun. But as the red herrings and wrong turns begin to fade away, the veil starts to lift and someone turns the lights on in Night’s house of horrors; and that spooky ghost in the corner is revealed to be a rather comical sheet on a string.
Here in lies the tragedy of The Visit. It makes you laugh when it probably shouldn’t. Night has mined his back catalogue of half used ideas from older films, and brought them to the forefront here. Problem is, he forgot to exorcise the ludicrous demon that accompanies them. As an audience we are left wondering, if this satire or a failed attempt at serious horror? The answer is probably moot, so long as you enjoy what is on offer; and that will be a purely personal experience only you can answer.
In the extras, Night says that the cast here are his favourite. He is either a liar or has lost the plot, because the main pair of Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are just awful. Luckily Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie keep it alive with their inspired turns as Nanna and Pop Pop. Truly an odder pair never existed on screen.
Film Grade: C-
There is a long tradition with horror films of having an Alternate Ending, and The Visit makes a big deal of this with its on sleeve advertising. I wouldn’t bother yourself though, because it is just yet another tonally odd moment when Night has tried to add emotional weight to a Looney Toons style experience.
Then comes a snappy Making Of, which not only looks pretty sexy but also makes no bones about honestly admitting Night’s reason for making this film the way he did. To paraphrase, the director admits he lost his way in Hollywood and need a grass roots palette cleaner to get back on track. The Visit is his ‘detox’ movie. If only this special feature had more content, and was about 20 minutes longer, it would be a solid reason to purchase the blu-ray.
Becca’s Photos are just a look of crap really, and the Deleted Scenes are truly disposable.
Special Features Grade: C
Welcome back M. Night. Shayamalan! You might look a bit tired and a lot older, but we can still sense that impish little boy who so liked to inspire us in years gone by. One more of these and we might well see the director back to AAA grade work. Please let it be so!