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article imageReview: M. Night Shyamalan finally finds redemption with ‘The Visit’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 11, 2015 in Entertainment
‘The Visit’ is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest picture and it’s surprisingly entertaining — something that hasn’t been said about the filmmaker's work in some time.
After so many disappointments, it’s easy to write-off any film with M. Night Shyamalan’s name attached. But after demonstrating so much promise early in his career, one has to think that talent will resurface one day. Thus every couple of years an alluring trailer promoting his latest project draws audiences into theatres, cultivating hope that maybe this one is his return to greatness… and in most cases those same audience members emerge from the darkness dissatisfied. Nonetheless, producers and studios continue to fund the filmmaker’s work so someone out there is keeping the faith. And it appears writer/director Shyamalan’s latest picture, The Visit, may be the film for which viewers have been waiting.
Loretta (Kathryn Hahn) hasn’t spoken to her parents since she stormed out of their house to marry an older man who became the father of her two children. Now in their early teens, the siblings are exploring their family’s history and asking questions about these people who raised their wonderful mother. In an attempt to give her some time with a new beau, the pair agrees to meet their grandparents for the first time during a week-long trip to their remote Pennsylvania farmhouse. Becca (Olivia DeJonge) is a too well-spoken aspiring filmmaker who decides to document the whole of their journey on camera, while Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) likes to rap and often speaks in slang. Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) are excited to see them, but their strange behaviour begins to worry the kids who start to feel trapped with these virtual strangers.
The kids have very strong personalities, which viewers will love or hate. Becca talks like she’s a middle-aged PhD, analyzing the meaning of everything and using technical terms for simple things. Tyler is her verbal opposite; his raps are misogynistic rhymes and he acts much less mature than his slightly older sister. Some may be irritated by them, while others will find them entertaining. Conversely, Loretta is not seen often, but she seems very normal and down-to-earth. And the grandparents are very likeable and traditional. Nana likes to bake and cook all the time, while Pop Pop does the work around the farm. However, it appears they’re both suffering from the early stages of dementia, which causes some rather disturbing incidents — but some activities are more difficult to explain or dismiss than others.
With Shyamalan’s track record and the direction of the narrative, it’s clear there will be a reveal in the final act. However rather than just trying to keep audiences in suspense leading up to that moment, the director actually entertains them. The script transitions seamlessly between comedy and horror, sometimes at the drop of a hat. In one scene, after mercilessly scaring the children, Nana has a moment of senility that gets some big laughs from viewers. As the narrative progresses, the atmosphere increases in intensity, hearty laughs change to nervous giggles, the grandparents start to act more erratic, and jump scares take audiences by surprise more frequently.
The well-structured script is complemented by the convincing performances of the film’s stars. The cast is very small, consisting primarily of the family and a few characters who pass through their visit. Dunagan and McRobbie really embrace the more extreme aspects of their characters, which makes the whole picture that much better. And as mentioned previously, the children play their roles to a tee, which will work for some but not others.
It appears Shyamalan has finally produced a movie people can enjoy — and he does it by not trying to recreate his previous successes.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould and Peter McRobbie
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