Last night, I went to see The Visit, in one of those new, fancy theaters, with the reserved, reclining seats (in Marquette, MI, of all places). Going into it, I knew that M. Night Shyamalan shot this film for only $5M. I also knew that it was a very specific genre film: a house-horror tale, which is very common: due to a limited budget, shoot 85% of a horror film in or around a house. My next film will be similar, if I can get it off the ground. Because of the limiting factors, these films are extremely difficult to pull off.
If you compare The Visit to The Sixth Sense (which was made for $40M in 1999 dollars) or Signs (which was made for $72M in 2002 dollars), you're probably going to come away a bit disappointed. But, if you compare The Visit to $5M movies (in current dollars), you'll get a more realistic expectation of how good this movie is.
The Visit does a good job of mixing horror and comedy in a limited space. The young actors (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) are superbly cast. There's an inherent danger in building a story around young people, because it's much harder to find young people who can act well (given their limited experience) than older people who can. The film also does a fine job with pacing, building up the intrigue and suspense as the story unfolds.
Is The Visit a masterpiece? No. Is it a pretty darn good movie done on a low budget that could possible signal a rebound of M Night's career? Absolutely.
I didn't hate many of the later M Night films as much as other people did. Aside from the ending, I liked The Village. Besides M Night's performance, I liked Lady in the Water. And, despite its problems, I liked The Happening a lot more than most people did. (I didn't see The Last Airbender or After Earth, and have no intention of ever seeing them.)
What I think The Visit does, is give M Night a couple more chances. That's a good thing. He tends to blow endings. He tends to ruin movies by casting himself in them. Yet, when he's connecting, he's still one of the best writer/directors around. He has a very distinct voice as an artist, and I want him to have a lot more opportunities to make films. He's only 45 years old, after all.
I'd recommend going to see The Visit, or at least streaming it when it comes to Netflix. Keep in mind that the whole film cost $5M, or 1/8th the budget of a horror movie like Final Destination 5. Hopefully, M Night gets four times the $5M budget for his next one.