Discounting “The Last Airbender,” which was an adaptation, and “After Earth,” which was Will Smith’s idea, “The Visit” is the first purely M. Night Shyamalan film since “The Happening,” way back in 2008. The new thriller — in which 15-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and 13-year-old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) spend a week with their grandparents, whom they’ve never met before and who are acting strange — isn’t quite a return to form, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s suspenseful at times, often funny (on purpose), and both kids have engaging personalities.
There’s one major problem. Even Shyamalan’s bad movies have always looked good, with careful compositions and framing … so it’s baffling that he staged this one as “found footage,” i.e., filmed by the characters (Becca is making a documentary, because of course she is). Besides negating Shyamalan’s visual gifts, this gimmick is self-defeating about 95% of the time it’s employed, including here, because it fails the “Why are you still filming this??” test. Why would an artist in need of a comeback handicap himself like that? The man is full of surprises, that’s for sure.
B- (1 hr., 34 min.; )