A review of M. Night Shyamalan’s uneven horror/comedy, “The Visit.” Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Just once, wouldn’t it be fun to hear a character in a horror movie say, “Wow, that basement looks really scary. I am definitely NOT going down there. Want to watch ‘Downton Abbey’ ”? OK, so it wouldn’t make for mesmerizing viewing, but it would at least break up the formula.
It goes without saying, but I guess I’ve said it, that in M. Night Shyamalan’s uneven horror/comedy “The Visit,” there is indeed something nasty in the basement, and our intrepid teenage heroine Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) probably shouldn’t have gone down there, but did, as everyone in a horror-movie script is required to do. Becca, a budding filmmaker, is visiting her long-estranged grandparents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie), along with her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) on their remote snowbound farm, and things aren’t going particularly well. Pop-Pop ominously warns the kids to not leave their room after 9:30 p.m., and Nana scuttles around the nighttime hallways as if rehearsing her interpretation of a deranged bat.
Shyamalan has, since his 1999 smash “The Sixth Sense,” presented a wildly uneven array of films; “The Visit” veers him off on yet another direction, that of campy horror infused with intentional laughter. Supposedly shot by Rebecca and Tyler (note the abrupt cuts and jiggly camera, yet suspiciously professional lighting), the film unfolds quickly and mostly painlessly, give or take a gross-out gag or two. DeJonge is funny and appealing as a teen reveling in the lingo of filmmaking (“This is the denouement!” she announces dramatically, to her skeptical brother); Oxenbould is believably little-brother irritating; and Dunagan and McRobbie, at least in the early scenes, look to be having a good time hamming it up.
Movie Review ★★½
‘The Visit,’ with Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge. Kathryn Hahn. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language. Several theaters.
Is there anything fresh and original here? Not really, though it’s amusing that Shyamalan, whose work has been known to verge on the pretentious, lets us laugh at a full-of-herself young filmmaker. In its later scenes, though, “The Visit” lets the laughs melt away and shows us two kids terrorized; it’s creepy, sure, but not very enjoyable, basement or no.
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