Did you ever see that mawkish advert where the kid goes to visit his grand-parents and spends all his time on the phone? In the end it turns out that he is making a video that causes everyone to cry. The Visit by M. Night Shyamalan borrows a couple of elements of that advert to create a 94 minute version of a heart-warming kids meet grand-parents movie.
Watch the trailer…
Found-footage tends to be one of those phrases that causes an impending sense of personal doom to wash over me. It is a genre that leapt into cliché quite a while ago. With The Visit, Shyamalan doesn’t re-invent the genre but he does manage to use it in a way that brings extra depth to the characters. Both our main protagonists carry a camera and there is a distinct difference between the composition for both. Where the genre suffers from randomness of shooting heights and visual references, here we get insight into the two children’s personalities. The Becca (Olivia DeJonge) character illustrates the pubescent adolescent emo-esque instagrammer whilst younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould)’s footage has a rough and tumble edge. The clever element here is the relationship built between them by the camera’s perception of each other – this allows for the reflective character development that is key to their understanding of the issues underlying their family. The film also examines the ability of children to accept and forgive whilst offering an interesting take on the infirmity of age. Everything is rationalised and that serves to keep the tension at a certain level.
Where Unbreakable and The Village were constructed to make the viewer feel like an observer, in The Visit we are drawn into the warmth of the characters and scenarios. We saw this in a fairly full cinema and there felt like a degree of interaction between audience and the screen. There are warm, familial, laugh out loud moments in The Visit and it feels like they should be there. The engagement of the theatre adds to the build up and releases of tension throughout the 3 acts. As the story progresses into uncertainty and darkness the reaction of the audience to each other darkens. It is an interesting constraint to watch and reaffirms my opinion that Shyamalan first viewings are a cinema experience rather than a DVD/couch one.
Mrs L and me spent the drive home doing our usual “when did you think…” conversation and we both agreed that we had been waiting for the TWIST to come. Shyamalan comes in for some (possibly unfair) criticism in some quarters for the “predictable unpredictability” of his films. The Visit definitely plays on these and is actually quite clever in just how it delivers against these criticisms.
We also ended up debating whether The Visit is horror or not – it is – or at least we reckon it is.
Should you go?
The Visit is probably the best thing in the cinema at the moment. It’s not an easy watch but it does hold onto you for the full duration. It is not a “nip out for a pee” film. If you like Shyamalan’s other work then there is definitely something here for you. If you like a decent bit of tense and release then again, this will work. If you want a reassuring heart-warming piece of family feel good then, yeah I’d book tickets too.*
If you have kids – then deffo leave them with your parents for the evening.
John is utterly sh*te at horror films and often takes a cushion to hide behind. You can usually find him buried under his pullover. Mrs L likes horror films. She liked this. John has nail marks in his arm to prove it…
(*One of these recommendations is a lie.)