By: Matt Olson, Copy Editor
Director M. Night Shyamalan showed initial promise early in his career, but a string of high profile flops made him a laughingstock of the film industry. His new release, The Visit, is easily his best in more than a decade.
The movie follows siblings Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) as they visit their mother’s estranged parents, whom Rebecca instantly dubs Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie).
Rebecca documents the week they spend together in hopes of bringing her family closer together, but she and her brother begin to notice strange behavior from the old couple. Nana walks around at night in the nude. Pop Pop hides things in the shed and always seems to be getting ready for a
costume party that never takes place.
The movie is equally comedic and suspenseful in tone, but it works best when it mines humor from the thrills. The movie’s answer to “Is Granny spry?” is one of its most terrifying – and funniest – scenes. The climax, centered around a game of Yahtzee, mines a similar vein. The horror is easily more effective than the humor, which is often the movie’s weakest aspect. Shyamalan knows how to evoke eeriness out of images, like the empty frozen fields the family crosses on the way to their isolated country home.
The characters are written in broad strokes, but the performances make them relatable. Rebecca continues to make her movie at times when a normal person would put down the camera, but DeJonge grounds her character’s conviction with a solid emotional connection. Tyler’s jokes sometimes land with a dull thud, but Oxenbould sells them with an infectious enthusiasm. The movie, however, belongs to Dunagan and McRobbie, whose Nana and Pop Pop are frighteningly ambiguous about whether their behavior is simply senility or something sinister.
As The Visit is an M. Night Shyamalan movie, it of course contains a big twist. Unlike most of his previous outings, the movie’s big twist is fitting and even logical. To say anything additional would spoil an enjoyable experience for moviegoers, especially in the weeks leading up to Halloween.