If it were just another PG-13 horror film, I might let it slide by. But this is the PG-13 horror film brought to us by the same man who gave us killer okapi in After Earth.
The Visit tells the story of two kids visiting their grandparents, who turn out to be a little on the homicidally insane side. Is it a pleasure trip or an awkward family reunion? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? The kids, Becca and Tyler, are played by Olivia DeJonge of The Sisterhood of Night and Ed Oxenbould of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Their mother is Kathryn Hahn of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And the grandparents are Deanna Dunagan of Have a Little Faith and Peter McRobbie of the Netflix series Daredevil.
The writer and director is M. Night Shyamalan, who we all remember as the guy who started off strong with The Sixth Sense and Signs and then crashed and burned with The Last Airbender and The Happening. In short, the man has talent, but it hasn’t been showing lately. This might be the movie that changes that, but only the trailer will tell.
The trailer begins with Tyler manhandling his sister’s camera in the car. They’re on the way to their grandparents’ house at Nana and Pop Pop’s request. And for some unearthly reason, Becca feels the need to film every single moment of it, from holding Nana’s hand to jumpscaring her little brother to teaching Pop Pop to fist bump. We get that Tyler’s a germophobe and their grandparents are the happiest they’ve been in a long time. But of course, this is a horror movie, so we know that happiness isn’t going to last.
The first hint of disaster we get is the unbelievably early curfew of 9:30 pm. The second hint is leaving the room at 10:47 to find Nana naked and clawing at the walls. Which sounds scary, but it’s actually normal behavior for a nursing home these days. They bring their concerns to Pop Pop, who tells them it’s the equivalent of someone talking in their sleep. If talking in your sleep were a pagan ritual. Turns out Pop Pop isn’t much better, as he likes to spend his days standing on the barn roof and cleaning shotgun muzzles with his tongue.
“They’re weird during the day,” says Tyler, “and even weirder at night.” So am I, but you don’t see anyone setting up cameras to spy on me. They do the smart thing and tell their mother via Skype, but their mother does the dumb thing and doesn’t take them seriously. “Just bear with it a couple more days,” she tells them. Clearly, she doesn’t realize she’s in a horror movie. Nana sits in her rocking chair facing the wall and laughing hysterically, and Becca asks her if she’s okay. No, I’m not okay; you interrupted my favorite wall-vision show!
Becca thinks her grandparents are hiding something, but Pop Pop tells her they’re just sad about their visit coming to an end. It’s a different end than you think, though, if that knife in Nana’s hand is any indication. Or that axe on Pop Pop’s shoulder. In fact, why don’t we just remove every potential weapon from the house and hope these two haven’t seen a Bourne film? Nana tells the camera interview-style (Becca must take her YouTube channel very seriously) that she’s sad it’s all over, but it’s not really over because she goes chasing Becca through the crawlspace. The most horrifying thing about this is not that Nana’s insane but that Becca is crawling around under the house and still filming. Your life’s in danger, girl; drop the camera and go!
Pop Pop is matching Nana for crazy; he randomly attacks someone on the street, and he says “Let’s make it the perfect night” in his best Heath Ledger Joker impression. Nana’s arm pops up from under the bed; a girl who looks a lot like Becca swings from a tree, apparently hung; the kids stop to get water from the well for some reason; and Nana hangs herself from an invisible noose like a mime. Becca finally insists that her mom pick them up, Tyler gets his cheek pinched, the police show up, and Becca gets her head smashed into a mirror. And the trailer ends with Nana saying, after a long awkward silence, “Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?” and then shoving Becca inside. Did we suddenly switch to Hansel and Gretel?
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Honestly, I don’t know. It has potential for sure; Shyamalan has done some good work in the past creating eerie atmospheres, and these are good quality actors. That said, his latest movies have been more awkward than eerie, and even Will Smith couldn’t pull off a good performance under his direction. Found footage isn’t necessarily a bad direction, but I’m wondering what could compel a teenage girl to film literally everything and how she was able to afford this many top-quality cameras. If they can justify that and if Shyamalan can salvage any of his filmmaking mojo, then this might be a good flick to pick. It could just as easily be a colossal mess, though. I’m curious enough to check it out when it comes out on DVD.
But I’m calling it now: the Shyamalan twist is that this is all a natural case of Alzheimer’s.
The Visit is owned by Universal Studios.