Film Review – The Visit
Hey, here’s a twist for you: M. Night Shyamalan is interesting again! Okay, not especially, but he’s sure trying. Between this and his foray into television, Wayward Pines, it seems Shyamalan fell asleep at his laptop in a ZzzQuil haze with The X-Files on in the background and then burrito’d it together and sent it to the studio.
Working on a budget looking roughly equivalent to that of craft services on The Last Airbender, Shyamalan takes the tried-and-true found footage tropes to new extremes in The Visit, aka We Need To Talk About Grandma and Grandpa. Relative newcomers Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould star as tight-knit siblings Becca and Tyler. Despite the fifteen-plus-year estrangement between their divorced mother (the awesome Kathryn Hahn) and her parents, Mom (only credited as such) decides its important that her children meet and develop a relationship with the grandparents and ships them off to Anywhere, Pennsylvania for a week of Boggle and bonding. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker who takes it upon herself to direct a documentary of sorts, gently prodding her Nana and Pop Pop (only credited as such) into forgiving their daughter for whatever undisclosed indiscretions may have occurred.
Things begin innocently enough. Pleasantries are exchanged and Tyler attempts to wow them with a freestyle rapping session. Like me, Nana and Pop Pop are nonplussed. They’re ushered to the guest room on their first night and told not to leave it, under any circumstances, after 9:30 PM. Kids will be kids, though, and besides, what the hell was that noise? The film is broken up into five title cards, one for each day of Becca and Tyler’s trip. I guess this is Shyamalan’s way of amping up the urgency as the kids gradually go from being weirded out to outright terrified by some ugly discoveries. Unfortunately, most of these PG-13 discoveries and jump scares miss the mark.
Let me set the sensibilities scene for you: I’m generally a huge wuss when it comes to these kinds of movies. I’ve lost many a’ cuticle to even the shittiest of Paranormal Activity sequels. Not to mention Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie turn in sufficiently creepy performances as Nana and Pop Pop. Their sometimes incoherent ramblings often graduate from eye-rolling to menacing at the turn of a dime. Additionally, both my plus one at the screening I attended and the bulk of the general audience screamed and choked on rogue Jujubees right on cue. Perhaps I’ve reached the point where night vision camera lenses and creaky doors don’t do it for me. I hope not.
Shyamalan attempts to upend the found footage technique by blatantly cramming his own commentary into the mouth of Becca. It’s not quite as egregious as The Lady in the Water in this respect, but also not far off. The limitations of the handheld technique differ radically from scene to scene, adhering only to the convenience of the plot. And before I forget to mention it, the “fun” scene used to close out the whole thing is pandering to the point of offensiveness.
Finally, yes, there is a twist at the 3/4 mark. It’s not terrible and neither is this movie. That’s as glowing as it gets today.