Brief recap. I didn't care for THE VILLAGE, and as a result I skipped LADY IN THE WATER. I thought THE HAPPENING was a respectable take on the "nature strikes back" films of the 70s, while THE LAST AIRBENDER and AFTER EARTH wouldn't have appealed to me no matter who directed them, so I never saw those. In short, I was happy to see a new M. Night Shyalaman horror film being offered and didn't approach THE VISIT with "Oh, no, not HIM again!" like so many others. So... what did we actually get?
Yes, it's yet another "found footage" movie... in this case, it's a documentary being assembled by teenage Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her little brother Tyler (aspiring rapper and germ-o-phobe as played by Ed Oxenbould). Their mother (Kathryn Hahn) wants to enjoy a pleasure cruise with her flavor-of-the-month boyfriend (the father of the children abandoned his family years ago) and has arranged for her offspring to spend a week in the company of her estranged parents.
Becca and Tyler are initially very happy to meet Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) but soon find their manners and habits more than a tad peculiar... and eventually downright uncomfortable (Nana is given to both the nighttime heaves and nocturnal streaking, while Pop Pop may be hiding a nasty secret in the woodshed. Not only that, but while Nana is all grandmotherly charm and admiration when it comes to Tyler's rapping (Tyler chooses to keep the film in the PG-13 realm by substituting the names of various female singers for swear words) and Becca's computer technology, but when she's asked to testify to the camera about just what happened when her daughter walked out of her life (a sensitive issue that Mom chooses not to share with her children), her reaction is... disconcerting.
As the film progresses, we're shown that what the children read as spooky and sinister behavior actually stems from various old-age afflictions they're incapable of understanding... both Nana and Pop Pop have forms of dementia which they can recognize in each other, but not in themselves, and both try to explain each other to the confused siblings. Meanwhile, Becca's own feelings of abandonment and self-loathing are coaxed to the surface as Tyler gradually takes on a greater share of the documentary duties.
THE VISIT turns out to be a wistful, sympathetic look at the frailty of youth and old age alike in the guise of what only appears to be a "horror" movie.
Take that at face value and skip it. You'll only miss out on a truly intense and frightening final movement (not to mention the 'gross-out' moment of the year while it's in progress). And don't waste time trying to anticipate "the twist" (if there actually is one), okay? I guessed the ending of THE SIXTH SENSE ten minutes in and it was still a terrific film. And I also knew the ending of THE VILLAGE, and it still blew. All that matters is whether or not the film itself works, and I think this one does. The move to low-budget filmmaking and the lack of a major cast of names was certainly a step in the right direction in this case, and I, for one, look forward to future Shyamalan horror.
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