'The Visit'

M. Night Shyamalan is taking another stab at the horror genre with his newest film "The Visit" starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, and Deanna Dunagan.

Shyamalan's claim to fame is "The Sixth Sense" from 1999. Some would argue that the filmmaker has yet to redeem himself from bombs after this point such as "After Earth" and "Signs." To his credit, "The Visit" hits you with comedy as well as an interesting and compelling story-line. And that twist that says, "This is an M. Night Shyamalan film."

Becca (DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Oxenbould) are insistent upon visiting their estranged grandparents to learn about family history. Becca is a precocious 15 year old filmmaker and Tyler is a creatively humorous rapper.

Together they get to know Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and Nana (Dunagan), but things just aren't quite right. Aging isn't for the faint of heart and "The Visit" puts several of those "aging issues" right in your face---literally. In typical kid fashion, the two attempt to find out if their gut feeling is right or are they just being dramatic.

Humor is at the forefront of "The Visit" finding unexpected ways to make you laugh. Setting up classic horror situations and letting them slide into a benign event, gives you that roller coaster feeling that's truly enjoyable. And with oven cleaning tasks reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and antics that happen after 9:30 pm, these moments are simply priceless.

Shot from the kids' perspective using their own video cameras, this sometimes dizzying technique pushes the envelope of credible possibilities. But if you can put that element aside, the story is beautifully amplified with this technique. Using interview style as well as capturing random moments of conversation among the family gives us just the right perspective, incorporating the classic horror film "gotchas." The signature M. Night Shyamalan punch will blindside you. It's downright fun.

DeJonge and Oxenbould have standout performances, especially given their young ages. They are naturals in front of the camera with DeJonge's thoughtful and sympathetic conversational skills and Oxenbould's quick wit and delivery paired with impeccable comedic timing. The two have a repartee that is highly unusual for younger actors and are an absolute delight to watch. Dunagan's role as Nana requires some pretty impressive physical agility along with the ability to be sweet as a sugar one moment and then catatonically bizarre the next.

"The Visit" is a most unusual horror film bringing levity and unexpected humor to very bizarre situations. The story is fun and captivating with wonderful acting and a unique camera perspective. And that classic unpredictable twist near the end makes it worth the price of admission. Stick around for the very end as the final rap song is hilarious.

3 Stars

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