Plot: A brother and sister, the latter an aspiring filmmaker, travel to meet grandparents for the first time. The old couple's behavior becomes increasingly stranger as their week goes on.
It's hard to believe that M. Night Shyamalan is making halfway decent movies once again. Not only that, the guy's inventing genres: the comedy-thriller. I had my doubts that this was straight horror/thriller stuff pretty early on, but I suspected I didn't know what I was thinking about. After all, I'm still halfway convinced that The Happening is also a comedy. However, I read that Shyamalan made three different cuts of the movie. One was straight horror, one was straight comedy, and the other was a mix of the two. So the movie improves instantly now that I know Shyamalan intended me to chuckle at the parts I chuckled at.
I'm more impressed that Shyamalan did this well with such a low budget. Of the problems this movie has, the budget isn't responsible for any of them. I wasn't quite sure I had mentally prepared myself for an M. Night Shyamalan found-footage movie though. It's not exactly found footage. It's footage from the brother and sister making a documentary. The kids are a couple of the warts this movie's got. The brother and sister are almost too different to make this work. She's overly intellectual, a prospective filmmaker whose vocabulary is a bit too vast. He's a freestyle rapper who likes to end his dope rhymes with the word "ho," like most pre-teens would, I suppose. The sister's played by a promising young actress, Olivia DeJonge, and the brother is a kid named Ed Oxenbould. Neither are bad, and both seem more natural in front of the camera at times than Peter McRobbie who plays Pop Pop. The problem is that they aren't directed to act like actual children, and it makes me wonder if M. Night Shyamalan was ever an actual child himself. I liked the performance of Deanna Dunagan as Nana a lot. No, none of them played things realistically enough for the found footage aspect to actually work, but that didn't get in the way too much.
There is a twist, naturally, and although that it was almost obvious enough to not even qualify as a twist, the ride was fun enough for it not to even matter. A weird chase under the house that's punctuated with an "I'm making a chicken pot pie" line and a wardrobe malfunction cracked me up even if none of it makes sense in the context of the entire movie. The first sign that something was amiss--retching--also (maybe inappropriately) made me laugh a little bit. There's a nifty convulsive freak-out in a chair that made me wonder if Dunagan was Nic Cage's grandmother. The very best scene is near the end, and I don't want to give anything away. It involves a game of Yahtzee though, and I'm smiling just thinking about it.
So the movie doesn't make complete sense, there are a few cheap scares and several scenes that just don't belong, and the kids' behavior might have you rooting for their tragic deaths by the halfway point of the film. But there are some nice touches, a lot of memorable moments, and a story that's interesting even if it's a little predictable. And Shyamalan does enough interesting things with the format and manages a cohesive creepy vibe. The Visit is a movie that makes me curious about Shyamalan's next project for positive reasons rather than seeing if he can actually make something worse than his last like I usually do. And I guess that's something.
I docked this a full point, by the way, for the final scene. It just made me angry.