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REVIEW: ‘The Visit’ is a creepy trip to an old Pennsylvania homestead

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Local filmmaker and philanthropist M. Night Shyamalan decided to return to his indie roots for his latest project The Visit. The writer/director self-funded the movie for $5 million, and shot it in 30 days.

 

In his latest movie, going to grandmother’s house turns terrifying.Photo: askmen.com

 

Kathryn Hahn (Mom) is a single mother estranged from her conservative parents, but she agrees to let her children visit them. Her children’s motivation is two fold, they want to let their mother’s blossoming romance with a boyfriend solidify during a vacation. They also want to shoot a documentary about the meeting and hopeful reconciliation.

 

Trying not to influence the kids too much, Mom is a vague on the details about what happened all those years ago. When the kids finally arrive to the sleepy Pennsylvania town, they are greeted by the couple that seem excited to meet them.

 

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) is the director of the documentary, with her brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) serving as second cameraman. They have a believable rapport, bickering as siblings do. The kids do a great job of hiding some of their pain behind the bravado of filming the project. Oxenbould has some hilarious moments that temper the tension.

 

The grandparents live in a lovely older home, with short ceilings, small windows, etc. And while it’s spacious, Shyamalan alternates, at times framing scenes in such a way to emphasize the isolation and constriction. There’s no discernable CGI, and the special effects are limited, which helps the movie feel organic. Having a couple of kids with cameras is a fun way to freshen up the found footage motif made popular with the Blair Witch Project.

 

Like all good horror stories, The Visit riffs on a natural occurrence (aging) and imbues it with the trapping of a nightmare. At first, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) is graceful and elegant, whipping up cookies in the kitchen. Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) alternates between forgetful and menacing. Their behavior begins to change in the evening. The typical response (“they’re old!”) gets thrown around, but could it be more than that?

Initially, Becca and Tyler are just shooting film to tell their family’s story, but then they start filming to try and understand what’s really going on with their grandparents. Fortunately, the trailer doesn’t give too much away. The director doesn’t either, but perhaps that’s just part of his focus on a realistic horror movie. Or perhaps he’d like a sequel?

Pennsylvania always looks beautiful in Shyamalan’s films, where our state often plays a supporting role. Its great that he continues to bring his productions back to the Philadelphia community. There are some recognizable local landmarks featured in The Visit, which is a treat. Shyamalan crafted a creepy intimate tale, be sure to bring a friend.

The Visit is PG-13, so older teens can enjoy the thrills, too.

 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

 

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