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M Night Shyamalan is a name practically unheard of amongst the teens of today – including me. In his heyday two decades ago, however, the film-maker was lauded for his award-winning thriller, The Sixth Sense. The Visit, a 2015 found-footage film, is a far cry from his usual self-serious style and precise shots. The self-funded movie – it cost only $5 million to to produce, though this information is completely irrelevant – is a mix of horror and comedy, holding its viewers in both thrilling suspense and belly-aching laughter.
The film revolves around serious 15-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge), an aspiring film-maker, and her hilarious younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), who is convinced he is a good rapper. The film begins slowly, with a video shot of the teens’ mother (Kathryn Hahn), explaining her non-existent relationship with her own parents. When their estranged grandparents reach out to them, the teens decide to visit their Nana and Pop Pop on their farm.
At first glance, Nana and Pop Pop are storybook, cookie-cutter grandparents. In the case of Nana (Deanna Dunagan), literally. No, I mean she looks like she actually would have cookies out of the oven every hour, on the hour. Pop Pop is a friendly, if somewhat taciturn, farmer. Becca loves the aesthetic appeal of Nana and Pop Pop’s winter paradise. Tyler is just ecstatic that his grandparents have no idea who One Direction is.
Things get weird fast. Nana requests Becca cleans the oven, insisting she climb all the way in. Pop Pop stockpiles soiled nappies in the barn. Slowly, the teens’ documentary turns into a mystery thriller as they attempt to find out exactly what is wrong with their grandparents – everything.
We know the twist is coming because how could you not, with all the not-so-subtle hints that have been dropped? Also, if this means anything to you, this is a Shyamalan film after all – that meant nothing to me. Still, it is delightfully unexpected and beautifully constructed in a way that sends shivers down your spine.
This film is a must-watch, or at least in my opinion, trust me at your own risk – I wouldn’t. Perhaps you could follow it up with a Shyamalan marathon before a long walk in a desperate, likely futile attempt to burn off popcorn-calories?