After the disastrous 2013 Will Smith-starring flop After Earth, The Sixth Sense helmsman M. Night Shyamalan returns to the horror genre with found-footage flick The Visit, starring We’re the Millers’ Kathryn Hahn, as well newbies Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould.
After reaching out to their estranged daughter Paula (Hahn), to whom they’ve not spoken for 15 years, ‘Nana’ (Deanna Dunagan) and ‘Pop Pop’ (Peter McRobbie) ask to meet their teenage grandkids, Becca (DeJonge) and Tyler (Oxenbould). To allow their mum to head off on a much needed holiday, the pair agree to spend a week with their grandparents – an event which aspiring film-maker, Becca, documents.
As the stay progresses, the kids become increasingly aware of their elderly relatives’ ever-growing erratic behaviour and it’s clear that the strange night time antics and mood swings are more serious than old age problems.
Found-footage is to horror what big eyebrows are to the fashion industry, or what dubstep is to the music biz: it’s the hip, cool thing. The Blair Witch Project began the revolution, the Paranormal Activity series took it mainstream and many others have had a crack at repeating the popular formula ever since. Shyamalan – who owes the world a couple of juicy favours following After Earth and 2010’s Last Airbender debacle – goes low key and low budget for his surprisingly enjoyable Granny’s-gonna-get-you project.
Pretentious 15-year-old Katherine Bigalow wannabe, Becca, and her little brother/rapper Tyler (a.k.a. ‘T-Diamond Stylus) – a kind of hybrid between a less depressed version of Eminem and a blonder Harry Styles – make for a surprisingly likeable double act. Becca’s a bright kid who knows what she wants, while Tyler’s a pre-pubescent womaniser with OCD. Together they go against the annoying-kids-in-horror-films grain, adding a sense of charm, wit and youthful naivety in delightfully unexpected fashion.
Nana and Pop Pop appear to be the stereotypical grandparents: big smiles, large house and plenty of freshly baked cookies. Yet whether it’s jumping random strangers in the street, or pushing kids into ovens, the creep-factor the two old timers possess plays out in a not-so-subtle, yet entertaining, manner.
It’s heavily unoriginal, and beyond the as-to-be-expected Shyamalan plot twist, there’s very little too it – with an attempt at adding an emotional core to proceedings (surrounding Hahn and her relationship with her parents) tentatively skimmed, if not for a forced – and rather cringeworthy – ending. Yet whether it’s the free-style rapping, poo-stained nappy nastiness or those crazy Nana eyes, despite all the silliness that surrounds the film, there’s something weirdly alluring about it.
The Visit‘s good for one thing: enjoyable, ludicrous rubbish. There’s enough in its central characters – and its creepiness – to keep you going.