‘Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?’
Wow. What a fucking bizarre and frustrating film.
M. Night Shyamalan is a great ideas man. The basic concepts behind most of his films tend to be ingenious. Only once has the execution matched the concept however, and that was nearly 20 years ago with horror classic The Sixth Sense. The Visit is another great concept from Shyamalan but with mixed results.
Two young children go to stay with grandparents they have never met. The grandparents turn out to be absolutely batshit crazy. This is a promising concept for a number of reasons but for every great directorial decision there are at least two bad ones. For every terrifying jump scare there is a small child rapping. For every spine tingling scene there is a wince inducing moment. This makes The Visit an odd viewing experience.
Shyamalan has received more criticism than perhaps any other horror director in history, which is unfair because he is definitely capable of churning out those scenes that come screaming back to you at at 3am in the morning, when you wake to the sound of a creaking floorboard. Shyamalan genuinely knows how to shock, a talent that a lot of his more lauded peers do not possess. Having said that, one thing he absolutely does not know how to do, is adequately end a film. The famous ‘plants rebellion’ ending that blighted The Happening was a laughing stock almost immediately, and whilst The Visit doesn’t end in quite as much ignominy, the bizarre inclusion of the unnecessary final two scenes completely undermine all the good will that the rest of the movie has earned.
In some ways The Visit very much falls back on traditional horror tropes (Checkov‘s
Gun Basement, Found Footage, creepy old ladies etc) but in other ways it is incredibly unique. M. Night Shyamalan is not as bad a director as a lot of people make out but he isn’t as good as he thinks he is either. The Visit is a genuinely frightening and visceral experience but as with every Shyamalan film since The Sixth Sense, it still feels like a missed opportunity.