Head-to-Head: ‘The Visit’ invites polarizing reviews

Universal Pictures “The Visit” is the eleventh film from Philadelphian director M. Night Shymalan

By Sean Ray and Julian Routh | the Duquesne Duke

“The Visit,” the latest horror flick from director M. Night Shyamalan, has polarized critics since its release on Sept. 11. The movie follows two children who take a trip to their grandparents’ house, only to find that their grandfolks are acting creepy. Is it scary? Duke staffers Sean Ray and Julian Routh debate.

Universal Pictures “The Visit” is the eleventh film from Philadelphian director M. Night Shymalan
Universal Pictures
“The Visit” is the eleventh film from Philadelphian director M. Night Shymalan

Sean Ray: “The Visit” was completely awful as a movie, and I’m not entirely sure where these positive reviews are coming from. The movie isn’t scary, the script is incredibly poorly-written and it is one of those handheld camera movies like “The Blair Witch Project,” without having a good reason to be so. The movie may have been better than the past three or so Shyamalan movies, but that does not make it good.

Julian Routh: Okay, hear me out. I understand that the found-footage genre has run dry, but you have to give Shyamalan credit for making this movie on a next-to-nothing budget. Yeah, there’s never a good reason for a handheld camera in Hollywood anymore, but it certainly made me see the story through the eyes of the children. You say this movie isn’t scary? I beg to differ. Some of the scenes — with the grandmother, especially — were straight out of my nightmares.

SR: $5 million is not exactly a next-to-nothing budget when it comes to horror movies, and much better ones have been made for cheaper. Just this year, “It Follows” was made for $2 million and it is a much better movie than the “The Visit”. As for scary, “The Visit” doesn’t scare, it startles. It relies too heavily on jump scares rather than any actual tension or pacing. Sure, you’ll jump out of your seat once or twice, but the movie fails to give audiences any lasting sense of terror. “The Visit” certainly won’t be giving me nightmares any time soon.

JR: You see, when I was watching, I felt much more of that dread than I did an anticipation of jump scares. Heck, Shyamalan had plenty of opportunities to send something jumping out at you, but used terrifying imagery instead. I agree with you that the pacing was off at times, and there wasn’t much of that atmospheric terror you saw with “It Follows.” But you have to tip your cap to M. Night, especially after “The Happening” and “After Earth,” right?

SR: I will agree that “The Visit” is the best M. Night movie in a while, but it’s like saying that dirt is better than mud; they both are a mess. The found footage angle wasn’t used well at all, and the movie would have benefited from having a soundtrack to make its scenes scarier and more tense. And that twist ending was completely predictable. Audiences never really get the sense that the grandparents are normal and just suffering from the effects of old age. Instead, the grandmother in particular always acted like she wasn’t human. Plus, the ending to the movie is incredibly happy and good feeling that it seems out of nowhere in a supposed horror movie.

JR: Hey, no spoilers, there, Sean. Those Shyamalan endings are what fill the seats, and this particular one is definitely startling. I thought Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie gave stellar performances as the grandparents. Very creepy. And the kids? Even though they seemed to be a bit out of touch with reality, they played believable characters.

SR: If they’re out of touch with reality, I fail to see how that makes them believable. In any case, as a fan of all things horror, “The Visit” just felt like an insult to my intelligence. It might scare someone who doesn’t watch horror movies often, but to dedicated fans of the genre, the film utterly failed to terrify and do anything interesting that has not been done before. Found footage is over done and surprise endings are just what is expected from Shymalan. This is one visit I did not want to go on.

JR: Very clever, but I respectfully disagree. I’ve seen several horror movies in the past few years that simply follow the generic tropes of terror, but “The Visit” puts a unique spin on them. I would call myself a dedicated fan of the genre, and to be honest, the movie is very reminiscent of “The Conjuring.” It pushes the boundaries of horror into a new realm, and it’s very unpredictable. It’s not one of the best horror movies of the year, but the story itself is creepy enough to keep you in your seat. I’d see it again.