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'The Visit' Blu-ray Review: Found-footage chiller marks a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan

January 6, 2016Ben MK

Best known for his early films like the haunting The Sixth Sense and the twisted superhero tale Unbreakable, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has been struggling lately, with his latest works failing to garner the same critical acclaim. Now for his latest film, The Visit, he's turned to the found-footage genre. But while that news would normally be cause for trepidation, the result is actually the best M. Night Shyamalan film in years.

Starring a cast made up of relative unknowns (with the exception of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day's Ed Oxenbould and Transparent's Kathryn Hahn), The Visit is the story of two kids, 15-year-old aspiring documentary filmmaker Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her 13-year-old brother Tyler (Oxenbould), who are sent by their mom (Hahn) to spend a week with her estranged parents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) in Masonville, Pennsylvania. Once there, however, Becca and Tyler begin to experience strange goings-on, to the point where they start fearing for their lives.

Could the mysterious occurrences and odd happenings taking place in Nana and Pop Pop's house be supernatural-related? Or is there something else afoot? The Visit's greatest strength lies in how it utilizes Shyamalan's trademark misdirection, leading audiences to suspect one thing, up until the real culprit is revealed in the big third-act twist. Prior to that point, the film chugs along reliably, building a suspenseful mood and eerie tension (with a few jump scares thrown in along the way for good measure) thanks to a series of disturbing sequences and a solidly-written script.

The script also provides a good backstory for the family (more so than other found-footage movies), which helps to bring a sense of emotional credibility to the characters and a sense of believability to their situation, and which plays in nicely into the film's shocking revelation. It's rare to feel this level of attachment to characters in the genre, but with The Visit, that's never an issue. A lot of that credit also goes to the actors, whose performances all contribute to The Visit being more than just a gimmicky horror movie. Overall, it's not quite on par with The Sixth Sense, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Just because The Visit is a found-footage-style horror movie, don't think for a minute that it doesn't look fantastic on Blu-ray. On the contrary, Becca must have one Hell of an HD camcorder, because the image quality here is top-notch, boasting crisp detail, robust coloring and deep black levels (and though shadow detail is often absent from darker scenes, you could argue that just adds to the film's atmosphere). As for the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, it's quite the crowd-pleaser as well, helping the movie attain maximum sonic creepiness with the sounds of footsteps, strange muffled noises in the night, and sudden thumps, bumps, growls and screams.

Universal's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Alternate Ending (2:25)
  • Deleted Scenes (8:34) - Ten scenes ("Check in with Mom," "An Evening with Nana and Pop Pop," "Waiting for the White Thing with Yellow Eyes," "Searching Mom's Room," "Someone was in Our Room," "Tyler Educates Nana," "Pop Pop Hates the World," "Visiting Mom's Favorite Joints," "Tyler Internalizes What Happened the Night Before in a Self-Reflecting Manner" and "Becca Considers Reality Television").
  • The Making of The Visit (9:56) - Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan discusses not only the casting and the editing of the movie, but he also touches on his career and the effect of the film industry on filmmakers.
  • Becca's Photos (1:13) - A series of family photos depicting happier moments, as taken by the character of Becca.

The Visit is available from Universal Home Entertainment as of January 5th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 34 Mins.

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