PG-13 Dir: M. Night Shyamalan | Universal | 1h 34min
Plot: What’s it about?
I must admit that I’ve never fully embraced the films of M. Night Shyamalan. I enjoyed The Sixth Sense, but none of his others have really ever registered with me. I think that’s the general consensus since reviews for his later films have been less than kind, and the returns have diminished a good bit. It should come as no surprise that I avoided The Visit during its theatrical run, but this is an interesting case. Not only were there more than a few critics who labeled this film as Night’s return to form, but I was curious of the plot twist. Still, I didn’t catch the film in theaters, but here we are now. I feel one of the duties as a writer is to not only be 100% honest, but to also sit through an entire film beginning to end before forming a final opinion. This is true regardless if I choose to personally cover a film out of interest (as I did here). I bring this up because there were several times during this 90 some minute film that I was tempted to fast forward. I didn’t. Consider that a huge favor from me to you, the readers. I can’t recall a single frightening moment during this entire film. I wanted to be frightened, I wanted to enjoy it, but sadly, that didn’t happen. In fact, if not for what I consider an ingenious plot twist (one I definitely didn’t see coming, though maybe I should have), the film would’ve all but evaporated from my memory.
We begin with two siblings, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) going to visit their grandparents. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker who convinces her mother to let the two go visit them for one week. The mother played by Kathryn Hahn is taking a vacation with her boyfriend, but she has not seen her parents since she was 15. Once the siblings arrive at their grandparents, it doesn’t take long for them to notice their strange behavior. I mentioned Becca being an inspiring filmmaker, and the film takes a sort of “Found Footage” approach. So, we’re constantly seeing the film through a video camera. The production is very well done, but I wish Shyamalan would’ve forgone this route for a more basic filming approach. I never understood the attraction to the shaky cam approach to filmmaking. I understand it’s much cheaper to do this method, but it’s more frustrating to me than anything else. I might be more forgiving if the film were the least bit frightening. Instead, it nearly drowns in boredom. There’s just little here to even sustain the short running time. We see some of Tyler’s rap skills as he freestyles a few times during the film, but the less said about it, the better.
Shyamalan has become known for his use of the plot twist. That’s at least one area where this film excels. I won’t reveal specifics about it, but I thought it was very well done. Maybe because I was expecting something much bigger that I appreciated it all the more becomes it’s pretty straightforward and right there in front of us. I wish the rest of the film were as interesting as the twist, because we might have something here. Sadly, a single twist can’t compensate for an otherwise lousy film. If the situation was reversed where the majority of the film was good, but the twist let us down then I might be forgiving. As it stands, The Visit is a slow, plodding film that holds little value. Boring isn’t a word you want to describe a horror film, but that’s the case here. Maybe one day Shyamalan will make a film that rivals The Sixth Sense in terms of quality, but that has yet to happen. Skip it.
Video: How’s it look?
Universal is general pretty consistent with their releases, and this is no exception. While the film did little for me, the transfer is first rate. The print showed no flaws whatsoever and there’s a nice, polished look to the whole thing. This is all despite being filmed in a “Found Footage” manner. Details remained strong throughout as well. The image is AVC encoded with a 1.85:1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track is fine, but I imagine there will be some viewers expecting a more robust track. I don’t blame the track for that as much as the film. It was a much quieter affair than I was expecting. The louder scenes did pack a punch, however. So, we get a good track, but nothing groundbreaking. Still, it suits the film fine.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – A collection of 10 scenes totaling around 8 minutes or so. None of them were essential to the film and were wisely cut.
- Alternate Ending – Nothing is changed as far as the twist goes, but there’s just a different bit of closure. It was wisely left out.
- Becca’s Photos – This is a short gallery of stills from Becca’s camera. It’s a useless feature.
- The Making of The Visit – A pretty standard behind the scenes look at the film.
The Bottom Line
I wanted to enjoy this film, but a clever twist is all I took away from it. I was mostly bored as I kept waiting for the film to work its way on me. That never happened as this remained a pretty dull and boring affair. The Blu-ray disc should please fans of the film, but all others should skip it.