*** out of ****
Yes, Hell has frozen over because I am giving a positive review to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. That's right, I'm not even a fan of his “masterpiece” The Sixth Sense, but I think most would agree that his output for years (The Village, Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender) has been sub-par. So I wasn't expecting to like The Visit, not only because of the Shyamalan connection but also the fact that it's crafted in the exhausted “found footage” format.
The set up of The Visit is pretty lame – siblings Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent to visit their grandparents whom they have never met because of a fractured family relationship. At first, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) seem like normal, sweet grandparents, but soon their behavior turns odd then sinister, and aspiring filmmaker Becca captures all this madness on her digital cameras.
Shyamalan wrote and directed this engaging horror show that has a welcome sense of humor and some good jump scares. Yes, as with most of the director's films, there is a big twist/revelation, but here it is fairly plausible and actually quite funny. I will admit that I didn't figure out the mystery early on even though it's hidden in plain sight. Occasionally, scenes end abruptly and there are a few situations that are conveniently structured not to give things away, but still this is good sleight of hand on Shyamalan's part.
The performances are also top-notch. Dunagan is able to seamlessly flip from kindly old grandmother to horrific nightmare, often in the middle of a scene. And Oxenbould, as the precocious younger brother, is hilarious. This kid is a natural.
The Visit is a fun balance of thrills and laughs and perfect pre-Halloween viewing.