'The Visit' scores high on acting, falls short on originality

“The Visit” left audiences simultaneously terrified, disgusted and amused last weekend in what can be considered the most atypical range of reactions toward any thriller released this year. M. Night Shyamalan’s original film may not have had anything new to offer in production, but an undeniable chill surfaces with the reality of a pair of innocent siblings being terrorized after visiting their grandparents for the first time. 

"In 'The Visit,' M. Night Shyamalan has gone back to basics, with a stripped-down story and scale, a largely unknown (excellent) cast and a classically tinged tale of child peril,” wrote Manohla Dargis of the New York Times.

Reminiscent of the mockumentary realism that propelled the Paranormal Activity series to success, “The Visit” features a strangely mature pair of siblings that shoot the entire film in an attempt to document their grandparents’ lives, though how they became experts of filming remains a mystery.

In essence, the film seemed more like a reality show about kids making a documentary than a thriller. 

“'The Visit' represents Shyamalan cutting loose, lightening up, reveling in the improvisational behavior of the kids, their jokes, their bickering, their closeness,” film reviewer Shiela O’Malley wrote. Yet, the film edged on a terror bursting from spectacular performances by Deanna Dunagan, who played the grandmother: harmless in one scene and possessed psychopath in another. 

Dunagan’s role as Nana almost seemed misplaced because it was so good. Chills are sure to be felt as Nana’s after-hour impulses have her clawing at the walls and running on all-fours in a home transformed by the coming of night. There is a reason why grandma’s rules insist that no one leave their room after 9:30 p.m.    

A 15-year-old Becca may have been too curious for her own good, but in her attempts to get Nana to divulge the dark secrets of long lost family turmoil, she triggers amazing performances by Dunagan, whose manic reactions to the mention of Tyler and Becca’s mom are as horrifying as her nightly activities.

Becca left the audience touched after a particularly odd scene in which her teenage insecurities are revealed. A strange moment of heart-wrenching emotion connected viewers to a girl whose life would soon be at the hands of psychotic killers.

Self-made rapping powerhouse and younger brother, Tyler, gave audiences something to laugh at, but nothing to appreciate. The blond-haired, blue-eyed 13 year old may have gotten a thumbs up from west coast rapper Tyler the Creator, but his demented grandparents seemed less than impressed.

And then there is Pop Pop, the troubled grandfather who wears adult diapers for a condition that somehow produces a brick red substance. What he does with his nappies is as terrifying as it is gross. Viewers beware - and like Shyamalan’s previous films, viewers can expect a game-changing plot twist later in the film.

While the “The Visit” cannot be glorified as Shyamalan’s most original work, a mix of horror and comedy makes for a one-of-a-kind experience. Exceptional performances from the cast proved to be the film's strongest appeal.


Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.