The words “Shyamalan” and “Found Footage” normally spell doom for any movie when they’re used to describe it but when you combine the two in the same sentence to describe a single film, you’d be forgiven if your first reaction was to gag at the thought of a shaky cam “horror” movie directed by the man responsible for turning the phrase “Twist Ending” into a fucking punchline. But in what can only be described as a form of irony, Shyamalan throws a twist at audiences by presenting a Found Footage Horror that’s not as bad as the Subgenre’s label implies nor is it as horrid as that one time he turned goddamned plants into serial killers.
THE VISIT is, at its very core, yet another Found Footage movie that follows the formula to the letter: you got your young moronic leads who demand to film everything even in the worst moments of their life, spastic jump scares that look more epileptic than a person’s panicked perspective, safe PG horror and fuck knows how much unnecessary filler all of which are meant to guarantee a timewaster that’ll be forgotten after one can of beer but THE VISIT somehow takes these generic elements and turns in a rather decent little film. Granted, it’s not as big or as impressive as Shyamalan’s early works but it’s a nice return to form for a director who was once labeled as the next Hitchcock before turning into a walking meme. THE VISIT may be a slave to conventions but at the very least it shows these familiar tropes in a different if not brand new light, giving something to invest in rather than leaving the audience bored and waiting for everyone onscreen to die.
The first half of the movie is guaranteed to misdirect anyone watching it because it’s as generic as one would expect in the post-PARANORMAL ACTIVITY age. Just like every other cookie cutter Found Footage Movie in the 2000’s, THE VISIT stars a pair of obnoxious kids who (while on a pretentious artistic streak most probably made up by Shyamalan in pure THE LADY IN THE WATER style) decide to film a documentary about their first visit to their grandparents’ house because that’s totally what millennials do on family trips. After roughly half an hour worth of the usual pre-horror filler including wigger free-style rap numbers by the thirteen year old boy done for some ungodly reason, the movie shifts gears and suddenly goes all-out on the tension that’s sorely missing in most every other Horror Movie out right now. Instead of being loaded with fake-out jump scares perpetrated by random teenagers walking into loud shit or barrels of blood rented from an Eli Roth set, THE VISIT brings back the old-school kind of horror where tension and silence speak volumes, all of which helps make a supposedly silly premise (i.e. murderous grandparents) actually effective. Right after the kids’ first night where they see grandma act like some SILENT HILL refugee, shit gets real and the tension just keeps on mounting when the grandparents’ shenanigans go from bad to pure batshit insane. In a time when Horror Movies are more than content to annoy the audiences with loud noises and horny partygoers as seen through epileptic cameras, THE VISIT proved to be a pleasant surprise by being a Horror Movie that actually understood the genre’s style and appeal in its more silent moments, choosing to gradually make its viewers uneasy instead of slapping them in the face with gag show level juvenile scares.
Now this would’ve been a perfect escalation of events that all leads to a nail biting climax but Shyamalan instead chose to fill the movie up with a fuckton of padding. If he simply reduced the amount of filler in between the tense scenes, the movie would’ve been shorter but better. It was a good thing that there were breaks every now and then just to lighten the mood after seeing something like a senior citizen scratch a door butt naked right before going to the next scare but there were many times when the mundane shit in the morning just wouldn’t end. THE VISIT uses these breaks properly and gives some time dedicated to unexpected character development that helps justify some of the genre’s absurdities (like filming a murder so that there’s evidence of what happened) but for the most part, the movie has a tendency to repeat certain beats just to hammer in the fact that something’s wrong. The first time it’s shown that grandpa’s hiding something, it’s a mystery you’d want to see solved but the nth time grandpa’s doing some weird shit in the barn, it gets boring because it’s already been established half an hour earlier that the dude’s off his knocker. THE VISIT is a horror movie, it’s pretty fucking obvious that something wicked this way comes.
After angering an entire generation for shitting all over a live-action take of their childhood, Shyamalan scales back and proves that he isn’t ready to be lumped alongside the likes of Uwe Boll just yet with a passable if forgettable return to the Horror/Thriller Genre that shot him to fame decades ago. THE VISIT is a lot more subtle and toned down compared to his superior films and it’s thankfully dry in the self-indulgent Shyamalan Tropes that were mainstays in his more infamous works but it’s a serviceable Indie Horror that’s guaranteed to entertain a lot of bored people when it finally hits cable TV in the future. For a guy who took a lot of artistic risks to varying degrees of success, it’s pretty bittersweet to see him deliver one of the safest Horror Movies in recent memory that no one would remember for good and/or bad reasons but after forcing audiences to watch him jerk off to his supposed artistic prowess over the course of six movies post-UNBREAKABLE, it’s a welcome sight to see the guy humble himself and play by the rules for once.
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