7 September 2015 | saarvardi
Better than it had any right to be!
Even though I've been severely burned by M. Night Shyamalan's commercial misfires (or rather miscarriages) like Lady in the Lake (ugh!), Airbender (what the hell was he thinking?) and After Earth, I decided to give him one more shot in the shape of The Visit. What worked in his favor was his superb work on the small screen in the form of the 2015 mini-series Wayward Pines - which made me believe that deep down inside Shyamlan's heart still resides a true artist, and not some lazy hack who tackles big-budget flops just to get paychecks from the studio. His recent talk in interviews about gaining back artistic control of his products was another positive step in Shyamalan's long path to cinematic forgiveness.
And so I entered The Visit, a somewhat short and intimate tale of two precocious teenagers, a brother (13) and sister (15), who travel cross country to meet and spend a week with their estranged grandparents, whom they have not seen or met since birth due to a big family feud their divorced mother (Kathryn Hahn, the most recognizable face in the cast) refuses to talk about. The sister, Becca (the promising Olivia DeJonge) also happens to be an aspiring filmmaker, out to make a documentary about the big reconciliation, which ever so conveniently sets the movie up in the popular found footage sub-horror genre - but also opens a wide crack for endless jokes and self-aware nods towards the unsuspecting audience.
Anyway, as you could probably tell by the previews, something isn't quite right with Poppa and Nanna, and even though at first they seem like reasonably nice elder folks, their strict rules (do not get out of the room after 21:30, do not go down to the basement) and strange manners (you'll see what I'm talking about) soon enough make it clear to both Becca and Tyler (the smaller brother portrayed by the superb Ed Oxenbould, who at 14 shows endless promise) that they better get the hell out of there - as fast as they could.
Besides the trademark Shyamalan twist, which actually works here and seems reasonable in hindsight (unlike, say, The Village), the extremely self-aware script and the very natural and authentic brother-sister relationship between both co-leads, lends further credence to Shyamlan's pet project. You can see that he cared for the characters, and you can also easily remember that this is a director who made a reputation for himself because he managed to facilitate such an emotional and iconic performance out of then-11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, so obviously he's good with kids. I don't know if young Ed Oxenbould is the next Osment, but he sure does deliver the goods through and through - and gives one of the best children/teen performances I've watched in a while.