We are watching a teenager's home movies where she interviews her mother (Kathryn Hahn) about her relationship with her own parents, which has been essentially non-existent for fifteen years. She explains that they disapproved of the man she fell in love with, who is the father of Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), and when he eventually left their mother it broke off relations with the kids' grandparents. But now there is a chance for all that to mend, for they have gotten back in touch to invite them over, and since Becca believes some time away from their mother will give her the opportunity to nurture her new relationship with a boyfriend, she thinks it's a good idea.
But seeing as how we have just seen in the opening credits that this was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, you as a viewer might disagree with the girl's assessment. This was regarded as his comeback movie after a string of box office disappointments turned popular bad film memes, and it did fairly well for him, if not exactly on the blockbuster level his earlier works had enjoyed including and immediately after The Sixth Sense. Wisely he opted not to be too ambitious with this considerably more modest chiller, leaving himself one big twist that was fairly satisfying in its simplicity, though of course there were a contingent of the audience who claimed to have guessed it early on.
But that’s the case with twists, there's always somebody who will tell you it was obvious (fair enough, The Sixth Sense had one that was very guessable, but that was before most people were aware of what this Shyamalan bloke was up to). Here we saw him fall back on what some would say was a lazy form of horror movie making, the found footage effort which by the point this was released increasing numbers of ticket buyers were saying they were getting very sick of, not that it prevented directors utilising the style to their own ends. It had become the mark of either a director on the way up (they hoped) or alternatively on the way down, an attempt to get down with the kids, though The Blair Witch Project had been a while ago by the time this was out.
Perhaps it was that found footage had well and truly become part of the filmic language, with even a Doctor Who episode presented like that the same year as The Visit. Or perhaps it was a bandwagon to jump on, as they seemed so easy to produce, as evinced by all those titles clogging up the quieter end of internet streaming services? Whatever, as you can see it did tend to dominate the discussion whenever it was implemented, largely because it supposed a certain authenticity that many would quibble with, though the most contentious aspect of this was the rapping of the younger brother, which was presumably meant to be endearing but drove many a viewer up the wall in frustration - kid got no flow!
One hopes he was merely taking directions from Shyamalan and hadn't demanded these sequences be included himself, though whichever he would likely look back on them in later years with the kind of cringing embarrassment most of us take from seeing old photographs of ourselves. Only we didn't rap in those. Other than that, the only controversy arose from the none-too-subtle depiction of the old couple the kids spend the week with as the embodiment of everything supposedly disturbing about the elderly, with their failing bodies and mental capacity, and insistence on behaviour that seems baffling to the younger generation. Oh, and it was presented as horrifying that some of them shit themselves and get upset when senility takes its toll, which it is, but mostly for the sufferer. Curious trappings for the cinema of fear, then, and a pity this only went so deep with them before lapsing into the overfamiliar bogeyman territory far too well telegraphed from the start of The Visit. Plus it ends on another poor rap, too.
Indian-born, American-raised writer and director, whose forte is taking cliched fantasy stories and reinventing them with low-key treatment, usually with a child at the heart of them. After gentle comedy Wide Awake, he hit the big time with supernatural drama The Sixth Sense. Superhero tale Unbreakable was also successful, as was the religious alien invasion parable Signs. Shyamalan's mystery drama The Village was seen as ploughing the same furrow for too long by some, and his fantasies Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (which he didn't conceive the plot for) were met with near-universal derision. On a lower budget, he made The Visit, which was cautiously received as a partial return to form, and Split, which was his biggest hit in some time, along with its sequel Glass, a thoughtful if eccentric take on superheroes. He also co-wrote Stuart Little.