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Review: They’re not just old, they’re weird in ‘Visit’

Tom Long
The Detroit News

With the goofball horror-comedy mashup “The Visit,” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan finally redeems himself after a series of missteps (“After Earth,” “The Last Airbender,” “The Happening”) which undercut the promise of his early works (“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable”).

Not that “The Visit” is any major breakthrough, but that’s exactly what it’s got going for it. Shyamalan gets back to basics — make ’em laugh, make ’em jump — with a cast of nonstars in a spare setting, and the tone shifts keep everything lively (or deadly, depending on the scene).

Fifteen-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her rapping younger brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are going to visit the grandparents they’ve never met. A just-married Mom (Kathryn Hahn) stomped out of their Pennsylvania farmhouse at 19 and never returned. Now she’s divorced from the kids’ father and wants to take a vacation, and the kids are pumped to meet Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop (Peter McRobbie).

So pumped that they are filming the entire trip. Yes, it’s one of those shaky hand-held movies, but Shyamalan still finds some interesting angles.

At first things seem idyllic, but a 9:30 p.m. curfew throws the kids. Especially when it turns out Nana is given to creepy late-night weirdness — running around naked, scratching at walls, throwing up. And then there’s the shed where Pop keeps all his dirtied adult diapers. What’s up with that?

The initially plausible explanation is that they’re old people and old people do weird things. But things just keep getting creepier and creepier.

Shyamalan pulls it off pretty well, until he tags on a sentimental coda and a silly rap song ending. But there’s undeniable fun in watching a couple of veteran actors get strange with two newcomers. “The Visit” may be worth one.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘The Visit’

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language

Running time: 94 minutes