Combustible Celluloid
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With: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/11/2015

The Visit (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Granny Cam

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After several perplexing misfires, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has scaled back, gone for a lower budget and a lighter tone, and has emerged with his most effective movie in over a decade. The Visit begins interestingly; the potentially creepy moments are easily explained away, and even laughed off, but the director still manages to create a subtle, creeping dread that steadily builds toward the climax.

Thirteen year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and fifteen year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) agree to spend a week with their grandparents while encouraging their mom (Kathryn Hahn) to take a vacation with her boyfriend. The kids have never met their grandparents, "Nana" (Deanna Dunagan) and "Pop Pop" (Peter McRobbie), and indeed, when their mother left home fifteen years earlier, something terrible apparently happened. At first things seem fine, but Nana and Pop Pop begin behaving strangely. Even if it can all be explained — Nana gets "sundown" syndrome and Pop Pop requires adult diapers — it doesn't quite ease the feeling that something is wrong. Meanwhile, Becca documents their visit on video, and hopes to capture something that explains it all.

Shyamalan uses the "found footage" concept with a more creativity than most other filmmakers, displaying his usual intriguing grasp of three-dimensional space as well as empty space. The characters themselves are even aware of certain cinematic theories that could make their "documentary" more interesting. They are refreshingly intelligent and self-aware, and never blunder stupidly into any situation. If the movie has a drawback, it's that fans will be looking hard for clues to one of Shyamalan's big "twists." As to what it is, or whether there is one, we're not saying.

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