M. Night has had a pretty good run; and by that I mean, he’s held the title of Master of the Modern Day Twist despite almost all his movies having near-fatal flaws when studied too closely (and sometimes even not too closely). In fact, his only perfect film may be Lady in the Water, by virtue of it being an honest-to-goodness fairytale and not pretending to be anything else (and I might be the only person who enjoyed it).
Yet still we watch, hoping for the next Sixth Sense (which, considering its enormous commercial success, might be the most egregiously flawed of them all. So egregious it should be called Sixth Makes No Sense. There’s “suspension of disbelief,” and then there’s “strangling disbelief and hoping no one finds the body.” But in fairness, it’s good if you only see it once).
So, The Visit. I’m going to try very, very hard to avoid spoilers, and certainly The Twist (do I even need to mention there’s a twist?)
It’s a seemingly innocent scenario, grandkids visiting their grandparents. Slightly unusual in that they’ve been estranged from the kids’ mother for fifteen years and so have never met the children, but otherwise your typical long distance family visit.
Oh, the older sister (15) is an aspiring filmmaker, which is the conceit that enables this to be a “found footage” movie (more on that later) . The younger brother (13) is unfortunately an aspiring rap star, and honestly the both of them are precocious to the point of obnoxiousness (they use words like “proclivities” and “nom de plume,” and you’d think I’d appreciate young people that could hold an intelligent conversation, but I mainly wanted to smack them. Imagine the original Jurassic Park kids, only you hope the T-rex eats them).
But we know this is a horror movie, which means things are going to go tits up somehow, and we don’t have long to wait. From a truly unsettling game of hide-and-seek to Nana’s bizarre nocturnal activity, the WTF factor ramps up pretty quickly (I’m not kidding; by the third night of barely human noises coming from downstairs, as the kids stand there debating opening the door, I caught myself emphatically shaking my head “no, no, hell no” and covering my mouth (which for some reason I always do instead of covering my eyes) ).
All the incidents seemingly can be explained away by normal elderly maladies (the grandfather calls it sundowning, which is a legit medical thing), and I let it lull me so I didn’t see The Twist coming (but I’m not one who tries to figure out movies before the end, in fact I saw another movie recently where I easily predicted the “twist” without even trying (honestly, does EVERY movie need one now?) and that severely disappointed me).
I won’t give it away, but for me, it was a doozy (don’t believe my hype though. Message boards are full of viewers far cleverer than me who *yawn* totz knew it).
There are jump scares (I jumped even knowing one had to be coming), lots of effective creepiness, no gore but one unforgettable gross-out moment that I’m not sure was absolutely necessary.
The “found footage” aspect is as awkward as it is in every movie that uses it; namely, justifying camera placement that catches what you need in situations where normal people would not be filming. Running/fighting for your life, for instance. Not even the most dedicated filmmaker would be worried about framing, I don’t think (and this movie takes it an exasperating step further. The girl is in the room with the threat (sorry, no spoilers means annoyingly vague), she sees the threat, then turns the camera away from it, then back again (repeatedly). I’m sorry, if something is clearly stalking me, I’m not looking away. Not for cinematic tension, not for anything.)
(Like this, only a lot less adorable)
However, this might be the M. Night film with the fewest amount of logical flaws–high praise, I know. There are small ones, but nothing that makes the entire thing fall apart. In fact, when it was over, I immediately started babbling to Tery about the twist (knowing she’ll never watch it) in the throes of what must have been a post-adrenaline rush. I had been sufficiently terrified, and that happens so rarely anymore.
It reminded me of another horror film that plays on the natural creepiness of old people and the frightening manifestations of dementia, The Taking of Deborah Logan (that one had an even more shocking, if less believable, twist, but I would still recommend it).
But for the denouement of this post, I’m sorry to say The Visit isn’t nearly as effective the second time. I realize few horror movies are (really only The Ring does it for me over and over again), but in the light of day this became just tedious. So, like Sixth Sense, expect all the goodness in the initial viewing, but not one to add to the permanent collection, I’m afraid.