The films of M. Night Shyamalan have never been particularly well-received. Sure, 'The Sixth Sense' brought him to everyone's attention for that twist - whether you picked it or not - and (perhaps prematurely) gave him the title of modern cinema's master of suspense. Yet his follow-up films delivered consecutive flops - 'Unbreakable', 'Signs', 'The Village', 'The Happening', 'After Earth'. Still, the director perseveres, and appears to be returning to his token twist with latest offering 'The Visit'... but can Shamylan break his bad run?
It's been 19 years since Becca and Tyler's mum has spoken to her parents. Nonetheless, when they reach out to her and ask to meet their grandchildren for the first time, the kids are more than eager to meet these mysterious family members. Upon arriving at the isolated farmhouse, a string of unexpected events take place, and the siblings are forced to question if their grandparents are really what they appear.
What may not be immediately apparent from the trailer is that this is a found footage film. This is rather neatly explained with aspiring filmmaker Becca shooting a documentary about meeting her grandparents for the first time. You'd then think that the scary moments would be flying thick and fast - unfortunately quite the opposite is true; this film is almost entirely void of any moments of real tension. There are a few surprising moments towards the end of the second act, but for the first 70-odd minutes, innumerous opportunities are either mishandled or forsaken entirely.
Not only is Shyamalan responsible for the lacklustre visual suspense, but the story that accompanies it. For what is a predominantly predictable plot, it picks and chooses from everything from fairy tales to classic horror movies to other recent found footage films - yet in doing so, never really stands comfortably on its own. The story remains relatively stagnant as we spend more time with the grandparents, offering less breadcrumbs and more glowing neon signs as to clues to the truth.
Not only is Shyamalan responsible for the lacklustre visual suspense, but the story that accompanies it.
There is a silver lining, however, and it comes not from the veteran cast but the two young siblings. Aussie Ed Oxenbould ('Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day', 'Paper Planes') is taking Hollywood by storm currently, and pretty much steals every scene with his cheeky charm as the troublesome younger brother. Newcomer Olivia DeJonge is also one to keep an eye on - she brings the much-needed balance as Becca, and presents a likeable performance of a character who could easily have come off as a know-it-all.
It's quite simple, really - M. Night Shyamalan has lost his magic. He's never quite been able to duplicate the success of 'The Sixth Sense' in the 16 years since a kid saw ghosts on our cinema screens. Although 'The Visit' may deviate somewhat from his usual formula, it's not enough to do what a thriller is meant to do - thrill you. Only be willing to embark on this adventure if you're extremely squeamish and looking for an easy ride, or your date won't compromise to see 'Everest' instead.