Review – “The Visit” is Shyamalan’s Best Film Since “Signs”
In The Spectacular Now, Sutter Keely states, “Embrace the weird.” Because Shyamalan heeds this advice, he has finally made another watchable film. Rather than directing the actors to act too seriously, he allows each actor to shine and bring their own personality to their roles. In the first ten minutes alone, the comedic moments make this film more amusing and enjoyable than The Happening, After Earth, and The Last Airbender. Thankfully, Shyamalan’s script is full of effective humor. His best comedic idea is to let one of the protagonists, Tyler, say pop stars’ names in place of cuss words. Admittedly, this sounds cheesy, but when Tyler pretends to stub his toe and says, “Shakira,” everyone in the screening audience laughed. A significant source of the humor stems from the oddness of the situations and characters, which is actually a brilliant way for Shyamalan to tease the third act twist without giving it away too soon.
Another praiseworthy aspect of Shyamalan’s script is the characters. In most found-footage films, there are filler characters, such as those in The Blair Witch Project, which existed to act stupid and get scared. However, each character in The Visit feels like a real person going through real problems. Tyler, portrayed excellently by Ed Oxenbould, is a germaphobe that enjoys rapping and cracking jokes. Becca, portrayed capably by Olivia DeJonge, is a teenager trying to reconcile her grandparents and mother through a documentary that she is directing; this is one of the better explanations for why a film is found-footage. The onscreen chemistry between DeJonge and Oxenbould as siblings is believable in regards to how much they care for and annoy one another. Both Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie, who portray Nana and Pop Pop, embrace their character’s oddness and pain, and provide off-putting screen presences. Although Kathryn Hahn is only a supporting character in The Visit, her first and last scenes help provide the film with deeper moments and heart.
Audiences expecting either a straight-up comedy or horror film will be severely disappointed. While the first hour of The Visit consists of comedy with disturbing and unsettling moments that suggest something more sinister, the last half hour is intense, dark, disturbing, and horrifying. Unfortunately, the comedic tone of the first hour does not mesh properly with the last act’s tone. Part of the reason for his tonal issue it that certain aspects of the psychological and physical torture of the children goes too far, which leaves an irreparable damper on the mood. Like Shyamalan’s Signs, the conclusion feels rushed and convenient. In fact, when the children turn to fighting Nana and Pop Pop, what occurs is less plausible than the rest of the film. Within several minutes of the conclusion, there is a scene of comedic relief that feels disingenuous; what the characters suffer through should have affected them permanently.
Because the children are not directly threatened in most of the teasingly ominous scenes in the first hour, some may feel cheated. Like Marvel’s Ant-Man, how the audience reacts to the humor ultimately determines how much they can enjoy this film. The most surprising aspect of Shyamalans film is the third act twist, which left the screening audience gasping and gawking. Not only does it makes clarify earlier sources of confusion, tension, and humor, it changes the way audiences interpret and experience The Visit in subsequent viewings. As a whole, The Visit is funny, disturbing, and unsettling, but in the last act, it struggles with its own tone and plausibility.
Are you looking forward to The Visit?
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