Oh dear, oh dear, oh dearie me. I wanted a horror film, and for my sins, they gave me one. Of course, in this case the word “horror” has to carry almost tangible sarcastic connotations. The horror genre doesn’t need defending, obviously—but to call this unmitigated piece of shit a horror film is nothing but a cruel charade. Still, you can’t say it’s off message though: it’s certainly psychologically and emotionally painful for the audience to sit through.
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, whose career consists of one good film and about a dozen critical and commercial flops, sincerely wants you to believe that his latest cinematic bowel movement, The Visit, is a “horror-comedy” in the same vein as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Cabin In the Woods, and Evil Dead 2. In itself, a noble goal. The problem, however, is that those films are fundamentally comedies that lampoon a lot of the clichéd horror tropes that Shyamalan is actually using in earnest. Shyamalan actually wants The Visit to be scary, but he keeps undercutting the effect with eye-rollingly awful and forced “comedic” scenes that—let’s be frank here—are so blatantly unfunny that my soul died a little more with each tortured quip.
A cursory Google search of the film’s production revealed an interview with Bloody Disgusting in which Shyamalan admits that he had trouble maintaining a consistent tone during the editing process. According to Shyamalan himself, the first cut “resembled an art house film more than a horror film,” (whatever that means), while the second cut more closely resembled a true comedy. Eventually, Shyamalan ostensibly struck a balance between the two, turning it more into a thriller, and ultimately tying the different elements together so that they “could stay in service of the movie.”
Now, let me tell you why that’s bullshit. The Visit is not a horror film. It would need to be scary for that, right? It’s not a thriller, either. It’s certainly not a comedy, as we’ve established. So, the question remains: what, in a word, is The Visit? After giving it some thought, I think I’ve arrived at an answer. The Visit is a product, and I mean that in the worst sense of the word. It’s the product of a diseased mind, yes, but it’s also a hackneyed, slapped-together amalgamation of bits and pieces taken from other, more successful films, and its primary purpose is to trick its audience into overlooking the hollow, soulless manipulation that’s being worked upon them.
From the two-dimensional characters to the shameless exploitation of the elderly to the easily-guessable twist, The Visit really does serve to highlight Shyamalan’s utter contempt for his audience.
To make matters vastly worse, there are no real redeeming qualities to be found here either. You know how you’ll watch a terrible movie but find yourself forced to admit that the score was kind of nice or that the cinematography was competent? Well, no such issue here, I’m afraid. It’s just all bad, all the time, to the extent that I wonder if I’m putting more thought into this critique than Shyamalan did into making the film in the first place. The acting is a joke, the dialogue is cringe-worthy, the plot moves in jumps and starts with nothing of consequence happening in between the major beats, and there’s this hugely irritating running theme of dueling perspectives on film production that basically amounts to Shyamalan masturbating in our faces for an hour and a half.
I fully realize that it sounds like I’m just identifying flaws and then dismissing them outright as opposed to analyzing them a little more in-depth and determining exactly why they don’t work, but the fact is that if I took the time to do so, I’d be here all day and, frankly, the less time spent thinking about this film and its myriad shortcomings, the better. Take my word on this one: you don’t want anything to do with this movie.
Who, honestly, is still defending Shyamalan as a legitimate filmmaker? The critics who have heralded The Visit as a “return to form” are the most baffling of all. Maybe if the form in question takes the shape of a massive middle finger jutting directly out of my eye socket, then I suppose it’s quite possible.
Rating: 1 out of 5