I quite liked M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” (2015); I’d give it an 8 out of 10. It is by no means a perfect movie. But it has all of the elements of Shyamalan’s work that I love: it’s beautifully shot; it has a fresh, creative story; it’s suspenseful; it’s atmospheric, and it has well drawn, likeable protagonists.
I am an unashamed Shyamalan fan. I love all his horror-thriller movies, even the one or two in which I can guess Shyamalan’s trademark “twist” in advance. Yes, I even liked “The Village” (2004). And I liked “The Happening” (2006) a hell of lot too.
This movie indeed has said twist. I thought I guessed what it was in the opening minutes. I was wrong, and when the real twist was revealed, it was pretty damn effective. For a moment, I was as dumbfounded as the characters on screen. This was despite the fact that all the clues had been right there in front of me, and seem obvious in retrospect.
And it is scary in places. A scene beneath the house comes first to mind. So does the “oven” bit that we see in the trailer. The cast is uniformly good. The standout was a fantastic performance by Deanna Dunagan as “Nana.”
A couple of things nudged this movie just slightly left of the “great” category, into the “good but not great” category. For one, I think this could have been a short film, and didn’t need more than 40 minutes or an hour to tell its story. The pacing seems to suffer a little because of that. For the first hour, we keep revisiting the same arc in tension: a grandparent behaves strangely, a grandchild queries them, and then the behavior subsides.
Character choices are also implausible. These are bright, savvy kids, who are either oblivious to or cavalier about obvious signs of danger. I think any person in real life would be too frightened to remain in the house where “The Visit” takes place. Later, certain things change a little too conveniently after the twist is revealed.
The rapid change in tone after the story’s conclusion was a little heavy-handed. I thought the story’s final minutes were nice, but maybe a little too much. (I am being intentionally vague here to avoid spoilers.)
Still, I’d recommend this. If you can overlook the movie’s faults here and there, you’ll enjoy a damn creepy modern fairytale.