by Adam Riske
The Visit is a messy movie -- an uneven hodgepodge of horror, comedy and drama -- but I liked it. At times I liked it a lot. It’s the work of a filmmaker who seems to be having fun for the first time in a long time. It also is the movie where you can tell a Shyamalan is getting his groove back after a string of misfires dating back to 2004’s The Village. In its place in his career, The Visit is a fascinating movie. I find myself rooting for Shyamalan based on his great work on The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs so I might be grading The Visit on a bit of a curve, but I can’t deny that the movie overall feels like a success and that’s rewarding to me. Hopefully the days of the writer-director giving the audience reasons to laugh at him are over.
After Earth). The strategy works for the most part. Interestingly, The Visit was made with three different cuts in mind: one played for comedy, one played for horror and one played for both. Though not confirmed, I think the version we’re getting is the last one.
The reason why I think The Visit works is because it effectively stages its scares and moments of suspense. This is a very creepy movie and scary in a fun way similar to something like The Conjuring. I had a couple of moments where I audibly gasped at a creepy development or groaned at one of the more gross-out ones. In being a spooky experience, The Visit works. But the movie goes for laughs quite often (most specifically with the young boy character named Tyler who is a 13 year-old white rapper) and I didn’t think any of that worked. Shyamalan has never been very adept at (intentional) comedy and I think The Visit would have been more effective if he played it as a straight horror movie instead of lightening up the tone with the occasional comedic bit. Then again, maybe the sense of fun I had during The Visit is peripherally related to the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself super seriously. It’s a conundrum. The Visit also attempts to be touching and dramatic at certain points and I didn’t think any of that worked as it has in something like Signs, although the lesson stated near the end of the movie is interesting in that it could signify a mantra Shyamalan is telling himself at this stage of the career. In the narrative, it doesn’t work.
Wes Craven, The Visit might not be a Scream-level career resurgence, but it’s a worthy addition to the filmmaker’s filmography similar to something like Craven’s The People Under the Stairs. Give me one of those any day and I’m a happy moviegoer. I’m anxiously waiting to see if Shyamalan can turn the victory of The Visit into another winning streak even if his star never burns as bright as it did in the late '90s to early 2000s.