M. Night Shyamalan returns with “The Visit”

At one point the name “M. Night Shyamalan” meant a great deal in terms of awe and importance. Shyamalan in his early years as a director and writer, produced a cultural phenomenon in“The Sixth Sense,” an extraordinary and engrossing take on the superhero genre with “Unbreakable” and a story about the loss and recovery of faith within a dysfunctional family during an alien invasion in the film “Signs.”

From then on, public and critical acclaim for Shyamalan dwindled with his following films, although I never shared that sentiment. However the problems began with the stunningly misguided adaptation of “The Last Airbender,” a project that nearly ruined his reputation. Following the mess that was “After Earth,” he has returned with great force and creative prowess in his newest film, “The Visit.”

The film follows a brother (Ed Oxenbould) and sister (Olivia DeJonge) as they beg their mother (Kathryn Hahn) to allow them to visit their Nana and Pop-Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) for a week. Their mother has only recently contacted her parents, following a falling out that occurred 15 years ago. The premise is basic but relatable.

What accentuates this story is the use of the found footage techniques. The siblings, Rebecca and Tyler, have hobbies to explain the footage—her interest is in filmmaking, while his is in endearingly cringeworthy rap. Following the reluctant approval of Paula, their mother, Rebecca and Tyler go visit their grandparents. The oddities of Nana and Pop-Pop are not obvious at first, but as the week progresses the oddness turns to 11, especially when Pop-Pop tells Rebecca and Tyler that bedtime is always at 9:30 p.m. After this time, Nana becomes a sleep walking mess: erratic, deranged and eventually homicidal during the late hours of the evening.

While this movie is a horror film on the exterior, with its well-executed jump scares and building tension, there is an emotional crux to the story, developed by the documentary Rebecca is filming throughout. This emotion, along with the creeping horror, builds up to a harrowing, revelatory and emotionally charged climax that cements this film as one of the finest films of the year, as well as a great horror movie.

The final scenes are strong, the ending is emotional and respect for Shyamalan from audiences and critics is restored. In truth Shyamalan was never gone, people just lost faith in him. With “The Visit” he has showed us why we should still believe in him.

Film: “The Visit”
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Release Date: September 11, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★