Over the River and Through the Woods: The Visit to Grandma's is creepy
The Visit: Poster
M. Night Shyamalan's legacy
Starting in 1999 with his breakthrough directorial debut feature film The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has put his signature twist (for better or worse) on a dozen or more films and TV shows as writer, director, and producer. However, like legendary director Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons) before him, a legitimate argument can be made that his best films were the first ones he made. Still, he keeps making films and we keep watching them. Needless to say, his latest film, The Visit, is a return to his quirky oddballness and twisty plot lines.
On its surface, the basic story of this film is that a pair of teen-aged children — Rebecca (DeJonge) and Tyler (Oxenbould) — who are shipped off to spend some time with their grandparents by their single mom Paula (Hahn). Paula tells Rebecca that something happened when she was 19 that caused her to not want to see her parents again, but for reasons that are not quite clear, she is now sending her kids off to see her estranged parents in the wilds of Pennsylvania.
The Visit Trailer
Visiting the grandparents
So, without much ado, the two children are sent to their grandparents’ house to spend a week with them while mom heads out on a relaxing vacation with her boyfriend. While on the trip to Penn. Rebecca begins filming a documentary about her grandparents in order to help her mom reconnect with them and also discover some things about her own parents as well. However, while filming the documentary, Rebecca and Tyler, begin to uncover a dark secret about their grandparents.
Picture Grandma Dead
How Shyamalan constructs his narrative
As is his wont, the story he is setting up, is not really the story that is being told, and (unlike his last few films), this time it actually works quite well because, well, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that when Shyamalan’s narrative tricks work they work quite well, and here he is — believe it or not — actually in top form. Rebecca and Tyler’s grandparents are admittedly odd (not right away, but hang around for a bit, they most-assuredly get there) so there is a real air of creepiness here that keeps the viewer on edge throughout the kids’ visit to the grandparents’ farm.
The Visit on DVD/Blu-Ray
Shyamalan's "other" films
As stated at the onset, we have long been fans of Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense was honestly one of the creepiest films we’ve ever seen, while Unbreakable was probably the best comicbook/non-comicbook film ever filmed; and yeah, we know that The Village was something that a high-school student might have written (and we know this because we, as a high school student wrote a story that was similar in nature to this film — true story). However, his Lady in the Water was supremely contrives and The Happening was mind-numbingly static, stillborn, and well, completely and unfrightenly dull. All of which is too bad, as it really should have been better.
The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition)
Shyamalan’s hits, near misses, and flops
Shyamalan’s technique works best when it is unexpected, uncomplicated, and not overly-stages (as it was in Lady in the Water), and yes, we understand that Signs was also overly-staged and entirely too coincidental in all of the expository action that occurred (although, truth to tell, while we were ultimately disappointed in its outcome, we did rather enjoy that film far more than Lady in the Water). The Last Airbender and After Earth were just films that he produced and should not be considered part of Shyamalan’s cannon (Airbender was — according to my son who watched the cartoon — quite good, while After Earth was an hour and 40 minutes that we’ll never get back. Devil, we unfortunately actually missed entirely.
OK, Grandma is a lot odd
Check out the Visit
Still, in the final analysis, The Visit is a truly creepy film, and while not necessarily one of his best, it is certainly better than the last couple, and one that most assuredly deserves to be watched, as it seems to mark a return to his former greatness.