The Visit (2015) — One M. Night stand

“Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?”

Justin’s rating: About time horror movies utilize the full power of Yahtzee!

Justin’s review: After a string of four high-profile movie flops, M. Night Shyamalan surprised pretty much everyone by coming out with a well-reviewed modest horror/comedy flick. And then he got right back into the business of creating bombs because nobody’s going to tell the Sixth Sense guy that he peaked back in the ’90s and perhaps should stop making films.

So the unexpected success was 2015’s The Visit, a movie that — in retrospect — contorts its premise into a pretzel shape to make the ensuing plot work (and it doesn’t actually work when you think about it for very long). What we have are two young teens, Becca and Tyler, who are put on a train to go visit the estranged grandparents they’d never met. Also, they bring video cameras to make a found-footage documentary because this was 2015 and every other movie was in this genre.

They arrive at Nana and Pop-Pop’s snow-covered home, and there’s that initial uncomfortable moments where lifelong strangers try to force a connection. But instead of getting more comfortable as the days go by, it gets less. Nana and Pop-Pop are generally nice, but they also are a little weird of the inexplicable variety. You know, like projectile vomiting in the dark, weird noises outside their room, or piles of diapers in the barn.

And then there are the rules, such as not leaving their room after 9:30 pm or going into the basement. Something is off here, and the kids find themselves recording the journey of uncovering a dark mystery.

Despite my mild shade earlier, the faux-documentary style actually works to prop up both the nascent comedy and horror at play here. One of my biggest complaints about Shyamalan movies is that his characters often come off as wooden and alien instead of relatable human beings, but that’s not always how it goes down in The Visit. The camera allows Becca and Tyler to bounce jokes, observations, and fun and creepy moments as if we’re their friend who is coming along for this week-long visit.

That said, Becca sometimes is written with a hint of that stilted dialogue that is way too wordy for any 16-year-old, even if they happened to be in a 1990’s CW show. And every time this boy starts rapping, it’s completely weird and unbelievable. So I guess I’m not quite convinced that Shyamalan understands his human hosts yet.

The Visit taps into a fear I think a lot of kids have, which is not understanding the strange “otherness” of the elderly. So the question that keeps getting asked in various ways is, are Nana and Pop-Pop just being eccentric and forgetful due to their age, or are they odd even for the older set?

The comedy and the PG-13 rating makes this more of a creepy campfire story with screams and giggles, and that’s a mixture that I like the best. It’s a really well-done 90-minute yarn that might not completely hold up to post-viewing scrutiny, but you don’t care so much because you had a good time watching it. And by “you” I mean “me,” so don’t think I know you better than you know yourself.

Didja notice?

  • “They could be scrapbookers. They could think boy bands are cute.”
  • Oh good, a train rap
  • The red Shining-style title cards
  • Tyler recording his tongue
  • “That’s a little candy for the ladies!”
  • That’s a whole lot of chopped wood
  • That old lady can crawl fast
  • Could’ve done without the diaper pile
  • Using female pop singer names as swear words
  • Sure, climb all the way into the oven for the nice witch there, little lady!
  • “Nobody gives a crap about cinematic standards” SATIRE
  • Oh hey, now there’s a creepy well
  • No boy would say “wretched acne”
  • Becca doesn’t look in a mirror for some reason?
  • “You have to laugh to keep the deep darkies in the cave.”
  • Worst “kids playing” kids playing scene ever

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