Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn
Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Cert: 15A Running Time: 94 mins
Having been out in the critical wilderness for a few years, M. Night Shyamalan makes a return to form as a master of fear and tension with his new film The Visit. Always a director and writer who knew how to deliver chills with a strong emotional core to his characters, Shyamalan seems to have taken stock of recent critical misfires and returned to his roots in independent filmmaking and boy does it pay off.
The Visit delivers on all levels making its partnership with producer Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Sinister) a perfect fit to bring it to the masses. Through its format, a documentary filmed on the lead actor’s camcorders, he’s put us in that scary house right up close to the scary folk and it’s terrifying.
The premise is a simple one. Two kids, 15 year old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and 13 year old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent to visit their grandparents for a week in rural Pennsylvania. Following a falling out with their mother (Kathryn Hahn) years earlier, the grandparents are keen to re-establish lost connections and so invite them to stay for some family bounding and the healing of old wounds.
Both kids are very smart and articulate. Becca is an amateur filmmaker and decides to document every moment of their reunion, while Tyler, an OCD inflicted teen who fashions himself as a rapper agrees to use the second camera to offer his own unique view. When darkness falls the first night, strange things start to happen and they begin to see Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) in a whole new and disturbing light. To mention the scariest parts would be to ruin the fun but I did actually scream out at one point, such was my giddy terror. The film builds up such a creepy claustrophobic atmosphere that every frame begins to build your dread – Nana’s long flowing grey hair, the barren trees in a snowy field, Pop Pop’s wood shed, the door to the basement. Shyamalan uses all the devices of the genre to get under our skin so that when the true scares comes, we are beside ourselves.
This is a film that will play brilliantly in a packed cinema auditorium where everyone can feed off each other’s fear and heighten the experience. Despite the familiar hand held first person camera work, the film is very cinematic such is Becca’s/Shyamalan’s keen eye for framing. There are great visual nods too to classic chillers like Psycho and The Shining and even Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. It very cleverly weaves in clues along the way, all the time drawing us in deeper into awaiting horror. Most importantly The Visit is as entertaining as it is terrifying and a must for any film fan who likes a good jolt. Highly recommended.
Check out my interview with M. Night Shyamalan for The Movie Bit.com here: http://www.themoviebit.com/2015/09/m-night-shyamalan-talks-to-us-about.html