Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan’s 11th film is possibly his best work since 2004’s The Village. In The Visit, Shyamalan blends classic horror and comedy together to make a film ideal for a fall season release and to show he still has what it takes to be a fine filmmaker in the horror and suspense genres.
The Visit is fun and horrifying as it tells an interesting story of anger, regret, and fear.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) have never met their grandparents before. Their mother (Kathryn Hahn) raised them by herself and had a major falling out with her parents at 18 years old. Becca’s mom won’t tell her what had happened, but the mother is convinced her parents never want to see her again.
Eventually the parents find their daughter and reach out to her because they want to meet their grandchildren. Desperate to meet their grandparents, Becca and Tyler agree to a week’s stay with them.
Becca decides to film the course of events as she and Tyler leave their home to travel to Masonville, PA, to visit their grandparents. She plans to interview her grandparents and figure out what happened the day her mother left. As Becca and Tyler document their visit, they begin to witness strange behavior from their grandparents and wonder if they should tell their mom.
As the week progresses, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) begin to act even weirder, and Becca and Tyler fear for their own safety.
The ensemble is absolutely fantastic, and the actors build off of each other as the film progresses. The kids—Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, both Australian actors without a single flaw in their American accents—are wonderful at telling the story through their cameras. Their performances are organic and raw. DeJonge illustrates a young teenager coming into her own, but who is deep down angry about her father abandoning them. Oxenbould provides comic relief with his freestyle raps and his ability to see the weirdness of their situation.
Deanna Dunagan is expertly creepy and gentle at the same time as Nana. Dunagan seems born to play this role; she’s wild, scary, intense, and mentally robotic. Her scenes are easily some of the scariest scenes in any films this year, especially the hide-and-seek scene. Terrifying. Peter McRobbie may play the most mysterious character in the film, and what he creates with so little dialogue is mighty creepy. And Kathryn Hahn tops it all off as the caring yet nervous mother who doesn’t want to leave her children with her parents but is eager to go on vacation with her new boyfriend.
Shyamalan decided not to use any score throughout the film until the very end, which was extremely effective and made it feel like a true documentary. The actual sounds of Nana’s scratching, running around the wooden floors of the house, and laughing in her rocking chair are the perfect soundtrack to the film.
The Visit only gets better as it goes on, luring the viewer in and making us wonder how it’s all going to end. Without giving anything away, the ending payoff is more shocking and surprising than I hoped for going in.