The Visit

2015 comedy-thriller

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A brother and sister, the latter an aspiring filmmaker, travel to meet grandparents for the first time. The old couple's behavior becomes increasingly stranger as their week goes on.

It's hard to believe that M. Night Shyamalan is making halfway decent movies once again. Not only that, the guy's inventing genres: the comedy-thriller. I had my doubts that this was straight horror/thriller stuff pretty early on, but I suspected I didn't know what I was thinking about. After all, I'm still halfway convinced that The Happening is also a comedy. However, I read that Shyamalan made three different cuts of the movie. One was straight horror, one was straight comedy, and the other was a mix of the two. So the movie improves instantly now that I know Shyamalan intended me to chuckle at the parts I chuckled at.

I'm more impressed that Shyamalan did this well with such a low budget. Of the problems this movie has, the budget isn't responsible for any of them. I wasn't quite sure I had mentally prepared myself for an M. Night Shyamalan found-footage movie though. It's not exactly found footage. It's footage from the brother and sister making a documentary. The kids are a couple of the warts this movie's got. The brother and sister are almost too different to make this work. She's overly intellectual, a prospective filmmaker whose vocabulary is a bit too vast. He's a freestyle rapper who likes to end his dope rhymes with the word "ho," like most pre-teens would, I suppose. The sister's played by a promising young actress, Olivia DeJonge, and the brother is a kid named Ed Oxenbould. Neither are bad, and both seem more natural in front of the camera at times than Peter McRobbie who plays Pop Pop. The problem is that they aren't directed to act like actual children, and it makes me wonder if M. Night Shyamalan was ever an actual child himself. I liked the performance of Deanna Dunagan as Nana a lot. No, none of them played things realistically enough for the found footage aspect to actually work, but that didn't get in the way too much.

There is a twist, naturally, and although that it was almost obvious enough to not even qualify as a twist, the ride was fun enough for it not to even matter. A weird chase under the house that's punctuated with an "I'm making a chicken pot pie" line and a wardrobe malfunction cracked me up even if none of it makes sense in the context of the entire movie. The first sign that something was amiss--retching--also (maybe inappropriately) made me laugh a little bit. There's a nifty convulsive freak-out in a chair that made me wonder if Dunagan was Nic Cage's grandmother. The very best scene is near the end, and I don't want to give anything away. It involves a game of Yahtzee though, and I'm smiling just thinking about it.

So the movie doesn't make complete sense, there are a few cheap scares and several scenes that just don't belong, and the kids' behavior might have you rooting for their tragic deaths by the halfway point of the film. But there are some nice touches, a lot of memorable moments, and a story that's interesting even if it's a little predictable. And Shyamalan does enough interesting things with the format and manages a cohesive creepy vibe. The Visit is a movie that makes me curious about Shyamalan's next project for positive reasons rather than seeing if he can actually make something worse than his last like I usually do. And I guess that's something.

I docked this a full point, by the way, for the final scene. It just made me angry.


Josh said...

Wow, just finished this one and I feel like I got a shitty diaper in my face. This is almost registers as a so-bad-it's-good kind of movie for me. I know I was supposed to laugh, but what about the times I laughed and wasn't supposed to? Or the times I was supposed to laugh and didn't? Awkward...

So, here were my thoughts as I watched:

The "found footage" was conveniently shot. At times, I was thinking, "Where the hell is the camera supposed to be? Was is purposely placed in such a cinematic place? This is like Les Stroud's "Survivorman" on Discovery Channel..." (He sets out into the wild with a backpack FULL of camera equipment and has to shoot his own survival, so he sets up tripod-camera angles and walks past them just to have something to edit later.)

The children's dialogue is so unnatural it's starting to piss me off. The girl uses words like "misogyny and proclivities and organic." The white boy rapping just rapped "I'm not a sensitive bloke." The mom's acting was the best, but the old folks did what they were told to do, and I guess they did it well enough.

There were just too many distractions -- mainly in the dialogue. Fucking Ryan Seacrest was mentioned with "Housekeepers of Houston". That's probably the worst thing to happen to Ryan Seacrest since he became what we know as Ryan Seacrest. The Yahtzee game scene was just a dialogue disaster:

"You're not a Yahtezz master. That takes 10 years."

"This game is made by Hasbro, PopPop."
"That's a lie!"

Other distractions were just plain script-oriented -- The old lady showed her naked ass a little too much. The POV, camera holding became unrealistic. For example, "When struggling to keep my Nana from strangling herself with a scarf, I always keep the camera up and focused." ...(I think I'll use that compound sentence as a bell ringer next week)... CRAZY NANA POV!!

The pacing was off. It wasn't a matter of life and death until the very, very end. It really wasn't a "horror" movie until way too late in the story. The old folks came off as crazy, not scary. That would make this a "comedy/crazy" genre, and that doesn't really work.

1. These "grandparents" are famous all over the internet, and the kids never saw a picture of them?
2. One nut-kick to PopPop would have taken him down for sure.
3. Running away?

The way the tension was created was bad. When Pop Pop shat his pants at the Yahtzee table, Nana crammed cookies in her face and yelled YAHTZEE! right into the camera, hiding under the bed, and a whole lot of Nana being a little too physical (and naked) for her age.

RANDOM: The sound editing was poor. The dialogue was muffled, slurred. Did the director have a cameo as the guy getting a beat-down by Pop Pop?

The character development for these kids was way too thin. The girl had daddy issues and avoidance to the mirror (suggesting image issues?). The boy had a football story about "freezing" that came in at the end when being tortured by Pop Pop. I mean, how did these supposedly important character beats pay off? The girl kills Nana with a mirror, I guess. The boy got shit thrown in his face metaphorically during a football game, and then literally later in life? I will say, one good payoff was with the mother saying "don't hold on to anger," which subsequently has the girl add in images of her father. Good ending.

Not so fast...then there's this stupid-ass rap at the end where the boy says "Shit doesn't taste like chicken..." Goddamn it, M.Night. Just when I was going to give you some valuable credit. What the fuck?


Shane said...

Well, I can definitely understand your frustration. I think you watched the movie with the wrong frame of mind though!

First, how do you know that you laughed when you weren't supposed to? I mean, I sort of wonder the same thing, wondering if M. Night is as tongue-in-cheek with this thing as I think he is. But the Yahtzee stuff? That had to be intentionally funny, right? That whole scene had me cracking up.

That rap song at the end. That was almost the worst thing that's ever happened to me. I'd put it right between hurting my foot and nearly dying and my parents' divorce.

I don't understand two of your loopholes. The biggest question I had was about how it seemed like the grandmother had superhuman speed in the scene where they were under the porch. What the fuck was going on there?

I liked the acting of both old people. I'm not sure I needed to see her ass though to be honest.

I don't remember sound problems, but I probably just excused them because of the found footage format. And the camera positioning was good because the teenage girl was a film-making prodigy. Did you miss how smart she was? You always have to watch these found footage or pseudo-documentary things with a suspension of disbelief. I didn't think there was anything that got in the way though.

I'm not saying this is a great movie or anything (12/20 isn't even good), but I didn't think it was The Happening either. Of course, I'm still not 100% convinced that M. Night wasn't dicking around and making a comedy disguised as a sci-fi drama there.