M. Night Shyamalan’s career has taken a downward spiral after “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” but he seems to have reclaimed some of his mojo with his latest effort, “The Visit.”
The movie does have some of the Shyamalan trappings and — considering whether you’re a fan or not — could be either good or bad. In this case, it’s good.
The movie follows two kids who are sent by their mother to live with their grandparents, whom they’ve never met. One of them is Rebecca (Oliva DeJonge), a precocious girl who loves to make documentaries, and the other is her little brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), who has a penchant for rapping and uses female artists’ names in place of profanity.
Their grandparents, John and Doris (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan), have basically only one rule: Bedtime is 9:30. Both kids decide to document the visit and once they do, they discover some very strange occurrences after 9:30.
Like I said before, the movie features Shyamalan doing his typical plot twists throughout, so it’s impossible to describe the plot in detail. Instead, I’ll focus on other aspects of the film. The screenplay and direction by Shyamalan is no doubt redemption for him after colossal misfires such as “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.” He seems to be returning to form by creating atmosphere and suspense punctuated with enough humor to lighten the mood.
As for the performances, both kids are smart and engaging, even though they have their moments where they come off as generic. The grandparents do get some creepy moments, which are often reminiscent of “The Exorcist” or even a Shyamalan character coming dangerously close to self-parody. Nevertheless, all the performances strike a decent balance.
As for the plot twist, it is truly original and blindsiding and doesn’t feel forced or contrived. This is a true Shyamalan twist, no doubt.
“The Visit” may only appeal to die-hard Shyamalan fans, but it’s great to see that this filmmaker hasn’t completely fallen by the wayside. It’s genuinely suspenseful, funny and well-executed. Way to come back, Mr. Shyamalan.
(Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language.)
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.