Lazy twist, rancid dialogue sinks ‘The Visit’

The child star of the “The Sixth Sense” is now old enough to drive.

That 1999 movie staring 8-year-old Cole Sear is also generally accepted to be M. Night Shyamalan’s last great movie.

Sure, some people like “Unbreakable” and “Signs,” but you won’t find many defenders of “The Village” and “The Last Airbender.”

The early critical positivity surrounding “The Visit” and Shyamalan’s return to horror in a low-budget, documentary-style format, gave me cautious optimism. It’s a return to form with enough comedy to reel in horror-hating cowards like me, so they said.

With all due respect to the people who review movies on a full-time basis, I disagree. “The Visit” squanders a few moments of genuine tension with a wretched script and another one of Shyamalan’s hacky plot twists.

Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are young teen siblings who get an invitation to visit their grandparents, who they have never met, for a week. Rebecca is an aspiring documentarian who decides to film every moment of their vacation, and Tyler is a precocious scamp who loves freestyle rapping (more on this later) and texting girls.

Not surprisingly, things don’t seem quite right at the grandparents’ secluded farm, which conveniently lacks cell phone service or Wi-Fi. Both of these seemingly nice old folks have quirks, but the most notable is grandma’s tendency to get naked and crawl around the house while vomiting and hitting things after sundown.

For the first two-thirds or so of its runtime, “The Visit” follows Rebecca and Tyler from the point of view of their handheld cameras as they interview their grandparents and investigate all the strange goings-on around the farm.

These are some of the best parts of the movie, as Shyamalan uses the amateur style of filmmaking to deliver some interesting character moments in the form of interviews. He also uses the shaky, handheld cinematography to fake us out with things that seem dangerous but turn out to be innocuous.

It’s not a great movie through that part of the story, but it’s watchable, if a little dull. It’s only when the expected Shyamalan twist is revealed that things turn especially sour.

Without giving away any specific details, I’ll say “The Visit” falls into the same trashy hole as many other horror movies by using mental illness to explain murderous tendencies. The idea that people with mental illnesses are inherently dangerous further stigmatizes people who already lack support in society, and this movie is another on the long list of horror flicks that revolve around it.

Even with a better justification for the grandparents’ weirdness, “The Visit” would still fall flat because its dialogue is terrible. Shyamalan must have hung out with some teens for an hour or so because there are countless utterances of terms like “YOLO” and “throwing shade.”

If that isn’t awkward enough, there are three separate way-too-long scenes where we get to see Tyler’s freestyle rapping “prowess.” I wanted to cower and look away from the screen during these scenes more than anything that was actually meant to be scary.

Beyond a few competent but unspectacular found-footage scares and a 12-year-old white kid rapping about girls, there isn’t much to like about “The Visit.” With Halloween approaching, horror fans should wait for something better to come along.