When Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her little brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) take the initiative to visit their grandparents, despite their mother (Kathryn Hahn) being estranged from them for years, they look forward to getting to know them. When the children arrive, things between them and their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) are everything they hoped it would be. However, as their visit progresses, their grandparents begin to show some very unsettling behavior. At first they brush it off and blame old age, but the behavior begins to grow more and more disturbing.
In the newest film by M. Night Shyamalan, he returns to the horror genre ever since the not-so-favorable The Happening in 2008. This time he is taking the step of combining comedy with horror. The trailer portrayed the film as being a horror film, but featuring tidbits of comedy. It was an interesting approach and definitely caught my attention, but I was still going to go in with low expectations (despite enjoying certain disliked Shyamalan films). As the film began it did have some great promise to it by easing us into the world of the characters and going with as little knowledge of the grandparents as they did. It starts off light-hearted enough with quirky grandparents/grandchildren moments that bring laughs. When the events turn and things become dark, this also manages to keep your attention, while at first not thinking quite too much at first. Some of the creepier moments emit laughter that is purely out of unease (particularly the great hide and seek scene, which I was hoping the setting there would have come into play later). Then, as things escalate you begin to feel more nervous about this couple. It all leads to a very thrilling final act that leave you on edge as to what is just going to happen. However, this is where the good things I have to say about the plot comes to an end. I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a straight up horror film. and that it featuring a good amount of comedy. I am all for horror comedies or dark humor in horror films, but the comedy here just felt so out of place and confused the plot and flow of the story. I appreciated most of the comedic aspects, but there was a line that I thought should have been drawn where the comedy ends and the actual horror begins. Instead, it becomes an unbalanced mess that almost makes it seem as if Shyamalan had no idea what exactly he wanted the film to be. I would go so far as to say that the comedy ruined the horror elements. If this would have been more of a horror film with just small dashes of comedy, it would have been much more affective. The last two scenes I also want to add brought down the film a lot. If those would have been axed the ending would have better. The plot also drowns in too much family mellow drama that made me want to barf. The film would also have benefitted much more if it only had traces of the documentary style footage but was mostly a regular format production and would have faired better with a good and creepy score.
As far as the cast goes, they all do a fine job. Although I personally didn’t care for either of the children at all due to both of them being really annoying and often times stupid, the two young actors do a fine job with the roles when it comes to expressing the fears and other emotions that they are supposed to feel. Kathryn Hahn, while hardly present, provides a quirky mother performance that she easily sells, but also does a good job of the more emotional moments. She does come off a realistic mom more often than not. As for the grandparents, it is Deanna Dunagan that provides the best performance of the whole cast. She can play the sweet and innocent Nana one moments and instantly change character into the terrifying old woman who creeps around at night and displays uneasy vacant expressions. Peter McRobbie does well with the role of Pop Pop, but he isn’t given as much to do as Dunagan, which is rather unfortunate because I feel he had the ability to do more.
The Visit is a film that will divide people. I do not think it was horrible by any means, but I do feel that M. Night Shyamalan should have decided what he really wanted the film to be. And to me it would have worked better as a horror movie with just traces of horror. Instead it just becomes an awkward mess that left me unsure of just what I was supposed to feel. And despite the dislikability of the two children, they, and the rest of the cast, especially our two senior actors, do a standout job.