'The Visit' isn't worth the trip

“The Visit,” by director M. Night Shyamalan is probably his best movie since “Unbreakable” but the film still didn’t meet expectations. A horror, the film follows two young teens who visit their grandparents for the first time only to discover that something is off about them. The movie is shot using the found footage style.“The Visit” almost works, but doesn’t hit the right tone.

Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and her brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) visit their estranged grandparents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie). Their mother, Paula (Kathryn Hahn) ran away from home as a teenager to elope with their father, who ran off with another woman a few years before.

When Paula’s parents later contact her asking to spend a week with their grandkids, she relents. Rebecca is an amateur filmmaker and decides to make a documentary of their visit to their grandparents. When they get there, their grandparents begin to act stranger and stranger.  

There are definite Hansel and Gretel parallels that can be made. The atmosphere does feel erie at times, but where the film falters is in its tone.      

Shyamalan seemed to hear the critiques that some of his movies have become unintentional comedies, so this time around he tried to make a real one. He takes all the awkward unintentional funny things from his other films, weird inflections and non-sequiturs, and plays that for laughs on purpose. It almost works, but Shyamalan can’t seem to find a balance between the humorous scenes and the frightening scenes. One moment there is a tense scene, and the next moment you are looking at old lady butt. It creates a serious mood whiplash, while the jokes themselves tend to fall a bit flat.

It’s hard to take the base climax scene seriously when there is a poop joke in the middle of it.      
The found footage style doesn’t work. The movie does back flips to explain why the characters are filming everything instead of using the footage to help build atmosphere. The film falls into the pitfall that many other found footage does.

The camera work looks too good to be shot on a cheap camera, with perfect lighting and sound. The tired method of “drop the camera and run because you are about to die” graces the climax awkwardly.

“The Visit” has the added bonus of large day captions a la “The Shining.” Shyamalan uses the documentary angle has a way to get out easy exposition. The movie might have worked better if it was shot normally.  

The acting is natural, with the purposeful exception of the grandparents. It’s nice to see Shyamalan discard the flat monotones and the awkward pauses that had plagued his previous movies.

While far better than M. Night Shyamalan’s more recent attempts at filmmaking and does manages to create some creepy moments, “The Visit” can’t quite get the tone right. It does have the signature Shyamalan twist, but it does work far better here than it does in the past. 

It’s reliance on the found footage gimmick hurts it as well, but it’s not even the worst found footage out this year. If you are curious, wait for the home video release.