The Visit is an M. Night Shyamalan film. Which either fills you with anticipation or dread. Perhaps a bit of both. You’ve probably seen the trailers… two kids visit their grandparents. The grandparents are a bit “off.” The trailer shows Granny asking her teenage granddaughter to clean the oven from the inside. “Just a bit further…get all the way inside…” which immediately conjures up memories of a certain gingerbread house. So that’s the premise of the film. Kids in a house with strange old people. Grandpa tells them it would probably be best if they didn’t come out of their rooms after 9:30.
I saw this in the theater with my daughter and a friend and I think everyone in the theater hated me. I squeaked, I squealed, I hollered “What the fuuuuck?!” I also skootched way way down in my seat…I was almost on the floor. If I’d had the Afghan of Doom with me I would have been underneath it a good part of the time. As it was, I had to make do with my hoodie. This is a good Shyamalan film. I did not see the twist coming. Or, I knew SOME twist had to be coming, but did not guess correctly. AT ALL. So cheers to you M. Night. You got me, sir. And while I’ve got your ear…welcome back to my good graces. Here are the two things that made The Visit work so well for me:
1) The kids are likeable and believable. They aren’t small actors saying grown up lines. They act like young people. Not precocious TV-sitcom kids, but actual living and breathing kids. They have quirks (the sister is making a documentary of the visit and she exibits all the silly yet sincere pretentions of film students. The brother is a “rapper.” His rhymes are not very good, but inventive and funny in a dorky way.) and treat their grandparents with respect…no sulking or backtalk. They genuinely like and care for one another and want their mother’s parents to like them.
2) The film plays on our fear of old people. Don’t shake your head at me….you know it’s true. The elderly are frightening because they forget stuff and they smell weird and they can be an odd mix of fragile and ferocious and it’s hard to know what to do with them. They are also terrifying because we will all face aging with our own loved ones and then personally (should we be lucky enough to live long enough to fall apart). Is Grandma doing that odd thing because that’s her personality or because she’s old? Is she sick? Does she have dementia? Did Grandpa just shit his pants? And am I supposed to pretend it didn’t happen? These issues are compounded by the fact that the kids have never met their grandparents before and are trying to mend a rift in the family. They are doubly incented to just play nice and go along with whatever is happening in the house at night.
A note about the ratings. I watch horror films with the Afghan of Doom (if I’m at home), and rate the scariness of the film on how much of my time I spent under the afghan and how much of myself had to stay under for protection.