The Visit, the latest offering from horror connoisseur M. Night Shyamalan, is compelling viewing.
That’s if you can overlook its stale plot, clichéd conversation or harsh portrayal of the elderly.
Rather, its merit lies in the performances of two relatively unknown young Australian actors – aged 17 and 14 – who rescue the movie from being completely unpalatable.
Under less-than-ideal circumstances (including shaky Blair Witch-style camera work), 17-year-old Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, 14, announced themselves as Aussie film stars of the future.
Director Shyamalan (Signs, The Sixth Sense, The Village) should be thanking his lucky stars he picked them out of the blue.
The Visit transports viewers to an idyllic American farm where two teenage siblings, Becca (DeJonge) and Tyler (Oxenbould) spend a week with their grandparents.
Their mother Paula (Kathryn Hahn) makes the questionable decision of letting them stay with her estranged parents.
Paula hasn’t seen or spoken to her folks in over 15 years and her kids have never even met them.
We all know where this is heading.
Shyamalan told The New Daily the film isn’t horror by genre, describing it more as “a psychological thriller”.
Not a horror by genre maybe – but by any other measure it certainly is.
Future Hollywood stars from Down Under?
During the stay on the farm, Becca (a budding filmmaker) and Tyler (a budding rapper), make a documentary about their grandparents’ lives for their mother. This is where the majority of nausea-inducing camera movement comes from.
In trying to convey their mother’s lost childhood back to her, the actors are nuanced and expressive beyond their years.
The performances of Oxenbould and DeJonge are so strong that you genuinely cheer for their family’s attempt to find its story.
These two young actors are forced to hold the film’s misplaced yet deep emotional premise together and that they do it so genuinely is a credit to their burgeoning talent.
In fact, remove the low scare factor, Shyamalan’s misguided attempts at black comedy and the bizarre (and vaguely insulting) portrayal of the grandparents, and the film might have worked better as a family drama.
The one thing Shyamalan nailed
They’re humble kids too. Speaking to The New Daily the pair heralded the mentoring influence of the revered Shyamalan – who launched the career of Haley Joel Osment with a single line: “I see dead people.”
“He was really amazing, it was an honour to work with him,” DeJonge said. “We both learnt so much.”
“He really knows what he wants and that helped us both … he brought us to a new level and we learnt more about ourselves.”
Oxenbould agreed: “It was really, really incredible. Getting to work with him was a way for us to learn so much.
“It was sometime stressful but the end result was really worth it.”
Shyamalan is a respected director for good reason. His previous efforts in Signs, The Sixth Sense and The Village were brilliant horror/psychological thriller movies.
He masters suspense, the supernatural and keeps viewers asking questions to the very end of his films. Unfortunately, none of that happened during The Visit.
As for DeJonge and Oxenbould – watch this space.