Is this M. Night Shyamalan’s return? Yes and no. The Visit, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie, makes an argument that M. Night Shyamalan does not desire the mediocre reputation he currently has with filmmaking. The Visit has two young grandchildren go and stay with their estranged grandparents for a week. As most horror movies go, something is off, and terror ensues. Despite its creepy plot and cinematography, this film does not completely redeem Shyamalan as a director.
If I could describe this film in one word, it would be creepy. This film oozes with creep. The grandparents (Deena Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) played their roles perfectly, each embodying a different kind of creep. Dunagan was the subtle one, always happy and smiling, but always leaving the scene with an eerie vibe. McRobbie embodies lost. He forgets things and becomes agitated by the smallest things.
The setting itself is classic horror movie. The house is in the middle of nowhere, with a shed and a barn close by. It is a classic parody of the usual serial killer/slasher settings of other horror films.
This brings me to the cinematography. The entire film is shot in the found footage style. The way the film uses found footage here is very reminiscent of the film Paranormal Activity, which was shot more as a documentary style. In fact, the entire movie is a documentary by the grandchildren. The older grandchild, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), is an aspiring filmmaker who constantly references movie terminology and desiring the most “organic” and “artistic” film. These jokes do get old quick, but they serve as a hilarious kick towards film students. Due to this documentary style of filming, the camera is stationary or steady most of the time; letting the audience take in the setting and characters. Found footage films tend to be very nauseating (Cloverfield), but I am happy to report that Shyamalan used it in a more mature fashion, letting it sit stationary for those creepy and scary moments. Despite these compliments, the film is not without its problems. I think the biggest drawback for me is that the movie does not do anything new. Horror parody is not a new idea, and many may compare this film to Cabin in the Woods, a better horror parody that came out 3 years ago. Shyamalan seems obsessed with referencing every creepy horror movie ever, and it does get overwhelming. There were some scenes that felt like padding, or were simply forced.
The film overall is not the staple Shyamalan bad that we have seen in recent years of his career. Shyamalan was actually trying, and in fact used his own tropes in a funny manner: the unrealistic children, references to his past films, his own cameo, and the long-winded pan shots.
I think this is a great step for Shyamalan, even if it is small. It could be a sign that the man who created The Sixth Sense is still somewhere underneath all that The Last Airbender crud.