The Visit review

You can't choose your family...

GamesRadar+ Verdict

None too original but effective. Scares, laughs and some authentic heartache as Shyamalan once more examines the wounds of a fractured family.

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You can't choose your family...

Endeavouring to re-find his mojo by turning in a low-budget found-footage movie for Blumhouse Pictures (the studio behind the Paranormal Activity, Sinister and Insidious franchises) M. Night Shyamalan has made his best film for years.

OK, that's not so hard when Lady In The Water, The Last Airbender and After Earth are the movies being outstripped, but The Visit is a genuinely creepy and chucklesome horror-comedy with a touching (if somewhat over-sentimentalised) core.

Visiting their estranged grandparents while their mum (Kathryn Hayn) goes on week-long holiday, teen Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) initially take to Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie) and their big, isolated house in snow-swept fields.

But why are the oldies so insistent on a 9.30 bedtime? And what does Pop-Pop get up to in his shed? And is a bad case of mould really the reason why the basement is off limits? One thing's for sure: wannabe filmmaker Rebecca will document events as they unfurl, keeping hold of the camera at all times or at least dropping it in such a manner that it still captures a cool shot.

Get past the usual niggles of the found-footage sub-genre – plus Rebecca spouting about “mise-en-scene” and Tyler's penchant for rapping – and The Visit serves up some chilling set-pieces, with Shyamalan assuredly framing his scares as he plugs into the uncomfortable, often unspoken fact that old people, to young people, can be both scary and foul.

Just as Cronenberg's Videodrome celebrated the new flesh, this cringes at the wrinkled and powdery, with the rejuvenated writer-director finding something of myths and fairy tales in these terrifying ogres.

Is there a twist? Of course there is, but it's more simple and effective than many of Shyamalan's elaborate rug pulls, and perfectly fits in with the campfire-tale tone. By playing it small, this is a big step forward in the right direction.

Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.