The last time anyone cared about an M. Night Shyamalan movie, George W. Bush was in the White House, Vanessa Carlton was on the radio and tweeting was something that only birds did.

The director soared early in his career with "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs," then spiraled into creative free fall through the likes of "The Last Airbender" and "After Earth." But with the clever, cheeky and only slightly scary horror film "The Visit," Shyamalan is partying like it's 1999, the year of "The Sixth Sense," all over again.

Budding 15-year-old documentary filmmaker Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her 13-year-old wannabe rapper brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are going to meet their grandparents. Mom (Kathryn Hahn) cut ties with her parents years ago when she ran off with her children's father -- who has since left her for another woman.

Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and Nana (Deanna Dunagan) have tracked their daughter down online and invited the children to stay for a week at their isolated farm in the Pennsylvania countryside, while Mom goes on a cruise with her boyfriend.

Of course, faster than you can say, "I see old people," Pop Pop and Nana turn out to be as creepy as midnight in a graveyard. But it's good that Becca has brought a couple of cameras and her laptop along to document all the strange things that go bump in the long night.

Since much of the film is from the viewpoint of her cameras, "The Visit" fits into the tiresome found-footage trend, but Shyamalan, who also wrote the script, unexpectedly injects it all with such a wily sense of humor that it works.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Youngsters DeJonge and Oxenbould display a real sense of sibling chemistry and an almost improvisatory sense of comic timing. Likewise, McRobbie and Dunagan play the grandparents with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek tone without spilling over into overkill. It's a tightrope everyone manages to walk with skill.

Shyamalan is known for his patented twist endings, but this time he's more focused on telling a good, fun story in place of just conjuring a good gimmick. With "The Visit" and "Wayward Pines," the well-received miniseries he recently produced, Shyamalan has his groove back. Except this time, everyone can tweet about it.