I wasn’t planning to see The Visit. I’m neither an M. Night Shyamalan fan nor a detractor (hater, for you young folks). I wasn’t as enamored with The Sixth Sense as most people were, but I liked Unbreakable more than most (except for the last few seconds, natch). I haven’t seen his last three films. I wasn’t necessarily going to see this one. I didn’t write it off out-of-hand like some people. I just didn’t think I’d be interested. When I heard the trustworthy hosts of “Killer POV” speak positively of the film, I figured I would check it out when it came to the second run theater. Well, I didn’t. But then I saw it was at the third-run Brew & View with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, (which i also hadn’t seen. though, i could have SWORN that i did) I figured, “What the hell?” (it’s that passion for film that you’ve come to expect from me, right?)
The Visit is a found footage/POV film ostensibly shot by a 15-year-old girl, Becca, and her 13-year-old brother. Becca is documenting the pair’s visit (THE visit… from the title) with their grandparents whom they’ve never met. Not once. Because their mom had a big argument with them over her wanting to run away with a substitute teacher from her high school. (when mom tells this, saying she hasn’t spoken to them in 15 years, a woman in the audience said, ‘good for you, girl!’ and here i was thinking the mom was a shitty teenager) Mom puts the kids on a train and heads off to a cruise in the Caribbean with her boyfriend (the substitute abandoned the family). So, the kids are stuck there for a week. Pop Pop and Nana are sweet at first but their behavior becomes increasingly erratic. Especially, after nightfall. They make plausible excuses for each other but the kids are losing faith in their sanity. Then there’s a twist! Or maybe it’s not a twist. It seemed pretty obvious to me. Either way, the kids are imperiled and shit gets crazy.
This movie did not have to be found footage. I want to get that out of the way right off the bat. Shyamalan can (and should) make beautiful movies. This movie lacks beauty in all but the out-of-place interstitial shots that established what day of the visit/week it is. I get that the girl is trying to find answers about her mom’s background and about her dad’s leaving, but we don’t have to see the movie through her lenses (her brother is given a camera to do second unit). Since I’m complaining, I might as well talk about that brother character. He’s an aspiring rapper. The worst thing in the world to be subjected to is a 13-year-old white kid rapping about hoes. So, you know, take note Mr. Shyamalan. (for next time, i guess) Those are my biggest complaints. I can’t really fault the “twist” for being obvious because maybe it really wasn’t supposed to be a twist. It sure was telegraphed (several times). And, sure, the movie is a bit slow to get to the action, but the grandparents weirdness makes you want to see what they’ll do next. And there is definitely some weird shit going on at the farm. Deanna Dunagan is amazing as Nana. At her worst, she stares and squirms and hits herself and rampages and menaces, but she also sweetly encourages the kids to eat. A very grandmotherly thing, turned rotten as the film progresses. It’s awesome to see. The creepiest moments are when she asks, wide-eyed and innocent, for Becca to get “all the way” into the oven to clean the back of it. (the same woman from above said, “run!”) The film’s crowning achievement though is its last reel. The final conflict is intense and fast-paced and makes up for most of the white kid raps that we suffered through.
THE FINAL CUT: The Visit suffers some from cringe-worthy characterization and its tired POV conceit. But Deanna Dunagan’s performance is a joy to watch and the last reel will have you squirming in your seat and leave you gasping for breath. If you’ve come to love Shyamalan’s big twists, you’ll be disappointed by this one.