Most reviews I’ve seen of The Visit focus on M. Night Shyamalan and his return to glory. The best example I can think of of Shyamalan's failure was the we-forgot-this-was-a-movie Lady in the Water. Reviews of his newest film pat him on the back for making a movie that people actually want to see after years of his fall from grace, but to me, if this movie was not a Shyamalan production, people wouldn’t be so generous in their reviews. In my opinion, a gooey cookie after a dozen burnt cookies is better, but still not cooked correctly.
The Visit follows Becca and Tyler as they visit their grandparents, who they have never met. The grandparents begin acting strange, and stranger, and then there’s the Shyamalan twist, and then….there’s not much else to it. While the movie keeps you guessing and the twist is a good one—it follows the Shyamalan formula—I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for there to be some clever element to the movie, for there to be something else going on. But there wasn’t.
Much like in The Village, after the twist, there’s not much else; in The Visit, it seems like the movie thinks a shocker is enough to carry a movie, while to me, it’s not. Aside from the fact that there are logistical holes that I can't mention without giving away the plot, the movie ignores that an hour and a half is a long time to watch people run around a farm house on “found footage.”
Disclaimer: I am a bit biased because I do not like M. Night Shyamalan, although I do like cookies, regardless of whether they are undercooked or burnt.
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
What to bring: Your focus so you’ll remember; you won’t feel a need to re-watch this movie
Bob’s Take: Even in his strongest films, M. Night Shyamalan has never been a great writer and director of the human experience. No one will ever say “The complex relationship with my husband is perfectly captured in Lady in the Water." When I’m evaluating the success of an M. Night film, I’m basically looking at three criteria: A) How fun is it to watch up to the twist? B) How good is the twist? C) How much BS do you have to put up with to get to the twist? The answers to those three questions for The Visit are A) Pretty fun B) Pretty good C) A lot. But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, and ain’t bad is a hell of a lot better than Shyamalan has been doing in the latter half of his career.
The fun of The Visit is found in two key components. The first is the escalating tension of something being wrong with the grandparents. There’s clearly something wrong here, an idea established from the beginning of the film, and there’s a lot of joy in watching the mild warning signs inevitably turn into enormous red flags. The other component is the fun of trying to figure out exactly why everything is so off with these grandparents, and then finding you were wrong when the twist comes. The twist essentially works through an intense amount of misdirection, and there are many ludicrously contrived elements of the set up and plot that exist only to serve this twist, but the twist still works. It plays by the rules that the film has set up, and it’s simple and effective. The film goes on for too long after the twist, with a predictable outcome once the twist is revealed, and a tedious epilogue that pretends to humanize something that was clearly a plot contrivance, but the movie is enough fun before that point that it doesn’t suffer too much from it. If M Night. Shyamalan is able to continue to turn out films like The Visit, he may still have a career in him.
How does it compare to other M. Night Shyamalan films?
Better than: Signs, The Sixth Sense (overrated), and all of his obviously horrible films
Worse than: Unbreakable
Stars: 3.5 out of 5