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FILMARTICLE

M. Night Shyamalan Triumphantly Emerges From Director's Jail With The Funny, Creepy THE VISIT

Redemption comes in the form of a pint-sized white rapper and unnerving diapers for one of Hollywood's biggest fall-off stories.

With The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t take the figurative gloves off so much as he drunkenly shadow-boxes while wearing brass knuckles. A glorious career resuscitation for the once-reliable genre filmmaker, this perversely odd and unexpectedly hilarious psycho-thriller is good enough to nearly forgive Shyamalan for The Last Airbender and After Earth—emphasis on the "almost."

The writer-director funded The Visit himself, using money he’d earned for directing the awful Will Smith/Jaden Smith vanity project After Earth, in an effort to reclaim some of that early The Sixth Sense/Signs magic, and did he ever. The bizarre film’s narrative is lean and giddily mean: two kids, the older Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and the younger wannabe rapper Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), head to their grandparents cottage for a week to give their mom (Kathryn Hahn) some alone time with her new boyfriend. A budding moviemaker, Becca records the experience as a documentary for mommy. The catch, though, is that neither she nor Tyler has ever met grandma and grandpa before, due to their mother’s heavily strained relationship with them. Before Tyler can bust his second freestyle rap (the kid, who’s as vanilla as can be, humorously fancies himself as the next Tyler, the Creator), the elders start acting weird: sneaking off to the secluded old woodshed, clawing the house’s walls at night, crawling on the carpet like insects.

Since it's an M. Night Shyamalan film, The Visit builds towards a whopper of a twist, unleashing a wildly bonkers grand finale that feels like John Waters making a Paranormal Activity sequel. Shyamalan's biggest victory here is how effectively he handles the story’s unruly tonal shifts. Every jump scare and creepily strange bit of imagery is immediately followed by a perfectly timed piece of reactive dialogue, mostly delivered by newcomer Oxenbould, who’s dynamite as The Visit's key comic relief vessel. There’s an overarching sense of anything-goes insanity to Shyamalan's triumphant comeback movie. Its zaniness is the direct byproduct of its do-it-yourself nature, facilitated by super-horror-producer Jason Blum and empowering Shyamalan in ways for which his recent misfired blockbusters could never allow.

It’s a magically devilish concoction made up of adorable white rap, Katy Perry name-drops, murder via broken glass shards, feces-stained diapers (yup, seriously), and Hansel and Gretel inspiration. All of which soothes After Earth's still-potent sting like an elixir.

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