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The Visit (2015)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/5/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/26/2016
If you are a movie lover, then you have had this conversation -- "Why do some directors simply lost 'it'?" We've seen so many directors hit the ground running and reel off a couple, if not more, good movies, and then it's suddenly like they forgot how to tell a story. Is it because they are more driven to prove themselves in the beginning? Do they begin to believe their own hype? One of the best case-studies for this is M. Night Shyamalan. His second film, 1999's The Sixth Sense, became a monster hit and earned Shyamalan two Oscar nominations. His next film, Unbreakable, was even better in my opinion. From that point, his subsequent films showed a steady decline in quality (although I did enjoy The Village), with the ludicrousThe Happening and the much-maligned After Earth seemingly solidifying the fact that Shyamalan was a mere shell of who he once was. So, the filmmaker decided to go back to his roots and delivers the low-budget thriller The Visit. Will it help to reclaim some of his credibility?
The Visit introduces us to adolescent siblings Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and their mother (Kathryn Hahn). After years of being estranged, their mother has reconnected with her parents and has agreed to let the kids go on a visit with them while she goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend. Becca and Tyler board a train and they are greeted at the station by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). They all go to the grandparents secluded farmhouse and begin to settle in, as Nana makes cookies. That night, Pop Pop informs the kids that bedtime is at 9:30 sharp and they need to stay in their rooms. Later, they hear a strange noise and witness Nana wandering the house. The next day, Becca and Tyler observe their grandparents doing some more odd things, but simply chalk it up to the fact that they are old and that they don't know them at all. But, as the week progresses, it becomes very clear that something is very wrong with Nana and Pop Pop and the kids need to be rescued.
No one has come out and said this, but The Visit is clearly Shyamalan's attempt to reclaim some of the horror audience which gravitated to him with The Sixth Sense. Far from his recent blockbusters (scale-wise, not box-office wise), this is a $5 million movie with a very small cast. In case you weren't aware, The Visit is a found-footage movie. So, in an attempt to be "cool" again, Shyamalan has decided to adopt a film-making style which peaked about 15 years ago and is now seen as cliched and tired? Was this the right move? And he doesn't even seem to understand this style, as there are establishing shots of the exterior of the house between scenes. Who is filming these shots? Also, he copies the Paranormal Activity movies by having the day of the week appear on-screen.
And then we have the story. The set-up for The Visit is actually a good one. Going to visit grandma's old house can be a scary concept, but it would be even more so if one didn't know their grandparents. But, Shyamalan doesn't give the movie time to build, as the strange behavior begins far too quickly. Shouldn't the kids feel a little settled in before they get freaked out? The movie then slowly begins to go off of the rails, as Shyamalan begins to toy with the audience in a very strange way. He knows that we are expecting a "Shyamalan Twist", so he starts throwing all kinds of things at us hoping to throw us off of the trail of what is really happening with the grandparents. When the twist finally does arrive, Shyamalan stages it in a very nice way. However, we then quickly realize that the twist is incredibly mundane and certainly pales in comparison with the wacky ideas which were suggested earlier in the film. (Also, while the twist makes sense on the surface, anyone who knows anything about psychotherapy will find it difficult to swallow. Either that or the movie did a poor job reporting Nana and Pop Pop's jobs. Given his family's background in medicine, Shyamalan should have done a better job with this.)
So, The Visit does little to separate itself from other found-footage movies. We basically get a glorified home movie here. There is one jump scare and a few creepy shots, but otherwise, it's pretty boring. The much-hyped gross scene is certainly not pleasant, but it's far from gross. The acting is OK, save for Oxenbould. This kid looks like the love-child of Arnold Schwrazenegger and Kathy Bates and I simply don't see him appeal. If you are looking for a found-footage film which features questionable senior citizens, then check out the far superiorThe Taking of Deborah Logan. Otherwise, skip this visit and simply stay home.
The Visit has a lot of actors playing actors in it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials, save for those commonly found in found-footage movies. The colors look very good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The image never gets noticeably soft and the depth looks good, especially when the kids are outside. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix really takes advantage of the setting and we are treated to the sounds of the house coming from the front and rear channels. This helps to lend an air of reality to the film. Some of these sounds are nicely detailed and the subwoofer really kicks in at the appropriate times.
The Visit Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extra features. The "Alternate Ending" (2 minutes) is more of an extended ending and further shows how Shyamalan attempted to make the epilogue too emotional. The Disc contains ten DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. All of these are brief and don't add any characters or subplots. "The Making of The Visit" (10 minutes) has Shyamalan opening up about his career and stating why he wanted to make this film. We go on-set to see certain scenes being shot while Shyamalan waxes poetic about his goals for the movie. "Becca's Photos" is an odd still-gallery.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long