The only way is up for nosediving onetime golden boy M Night Shyamalan following the disastrous hat-trick of ‘The Happening’, ‘The Last Airbender’ and ‘After Earth’ – a run of shockers that make Ed Wood look like Scorsese. And on the surface, ‘The Visit’ looks like a welcome return to the ‘The Sixth Sense’ writer-director’s early successes, with its rural Pennsylvania setting, hairpin plot and forgettable title. It’s constructed as a homemade documentary by 15-year-old movie geek Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her wannabe-rap-star little brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), whose trip to visit their estranged grandparents (Deanna Duggan and Peter McRobbie) gradually flips from a fun family getaway to a terrifying endurance test when it turns out the old folks have some unsavoury nocturnal habits.
Shyamalan proves he’s not lost his knack for a short, sharp shock – there’s a hide-and-seek scene that’ll leave you whimpering – and the inevitable twist is a doozy. But there are two major problems here, and they’re both blonde, blue-eyed and unbearable: if Becca’s cheery habit of spouting great chunks of moviemaking lore isn’t irksome enough, Tyler’s penchant for breaking into squeaky improvised rhyme might actually induce panic attacks. The result is a bizarre, conflicted mess, horrifying when it’s trying to be funny, oddly appealing when it turns the screws. Still, if you’ve ever wanted to hear a lisping 12-year-old rap about how traumatic it is to have shit rubbed in your face by a elderly relative, step right up.