The Visit, 2015.
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie and Kathryn Hahn.
A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.
The Visit is an odd movie. Billed as a horror film (at least IMDB labels it under that genre), the movie is surprisingly more of a dark comedy, but it would be disingenuous to say that there isn’t some terror beneath the surface. If M. Night Shyamalan’s intentions were to create a straight up horror film, then he failed miserably, but fortunately for the down-on-his-luck director (his recent movies have been pure garbage) it’s clear that there is a heavy amount of old people parody permeating what are supposed to be unnerving moments.
There is a scene early on in the film where the children and grandfather are out and about the city, where the paranoid old basket case is, for no reason, convinced that the stranger across the street is stalking him. So what does grandpa do? Well, he goes up to him and knocks the crap out of him. It’s moments like these that are downright hilarious, intended or not, but also come with an underlying sense of terror about the mindset of the elderly. It strikes a perfect balance between satire and realism.
Make no mistake about it though, The Visit is hardly a believable story. Shyamalan is back with another twist, and quite frankly, I felt incredibly stupid upon its reveal. Many moments that confuse you with either fright or laughter finally make sense as you kick yourself in the face for not having come to this conclusion 15 minutes into the movie. The problem with the twist though, as entertaining as it is, is that it requires a gargantuan sized suspension of disbelief to even remotely accept that what has happened, could actually occur. You sort of have to ask yourself whether you want to have fun and go along with the craziness or nitpick the movie from being outlandishly stupid.
As exhilarating as those final 20 minutes are however, much of The Visit never really hits that same level of excitement. There is a certain ambiguity to the grandparents and their strange behavior, but a lot of it falls flat simply because there is no character definition. However, to the movie’s credit, it is like that simply because the twist would not work otherwise. The performances from both of the grandparents are always a pleasure to watch though, often portraying quiet and reserved personalities to cranking things up to over-the-top crazy levels on a dime. It’s an interesting dichotomy that elevates both performances.
The children however, can be rather grating on the nerves. The roughly 13-year-old boy is naturally the immature one, but also has an odd fascination with freestyle rapping. Some of these scenes (except for the end credits) are absolutely cringe-worthy and painful to witness. Meanwhile, the slightly older girl is all-knowing with a superior attitude which comes across annoying. The performances don’t really complement each other that well, but thankfully their nuisances drift away once they become more serious about uncovering what is actually going on with their grandparents.
There is also an extremely out-of-place subplot regarding the children’s mother not having talked to the grandparents in over a decade because she wanted nothing to do with them after running away in high school to marry a teacher she fell in love with, that ended up leaving her anyway for a Starbucks employee. The Visit is already fairly succeeding at juggling comedy and horror in synchronization, so this small dramatic theme regarding forgiveness is jarring in the grand scheme of the narrative, and to put it bluntly, just doesn’t belong. The ending scene feels like the ending to a movie of a completely different genre.
Still, The Visit should be considered a winning comeback for Shyamalan; the twist is dumb fun and audiences are going to have a blast being simultaneously frightened while laughing at the lunacy of it all. It can’t touch some of the auteur’s more revered works, but it is definitely closer in line to what viewers expect and want from a Shyamalan flick.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook