Films | Review | M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit (2015)
The Visit, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is one of only two Shyamalan films that I've been excited about in maybe a decade. It's sad but possibly true that he peaked as early in his film career as Sixth Sense, as I think most people would agree that that is still his best film to date. However, he has created some decent films since then, such as The Village and Signs, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on Split as I haven't seen it yet but heard great things. The Visit is the only other film of Shyamalan's apart from Split that I've had any interest in in recent years, so I've decided to watch and review it now. Spoilers after the jump.
The Visit is an obvious film from start to finish. Combined with its slow-pacing, unsympathetic characters, and an abundance of foreshadowing and tension that hints at The Visit being a much better film than it actually is, overall makes for a below-average, anti-climactic horror film.
We follow teens Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) to their estranged grandparents' house for a week as they document their first meeting; the entire film is based on the premise that they've never met, and that their mother (Kathryn Hahn) hasn't gone with them due to complicated past family issues. The "twist" that Shyamalan of course injected, as he seems incapable of creating a film without one, is that their grandparents are not, in fact, their grandparents, but instead imposters.
This is obvious from the start, because what other option is there for a Shyamalan film than this so-called "twist". Kids go to visit their estranged grandparents, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and PopPop (Peter McRobbie), that they've never met, and apparently have never seen pictures of; of course they're not going to be their grandparents. Any other option would have been better, so throughout the entire film I kept my fingers crossed that this wouldn't be the case. I came up with some theories throughout, and, if I do say so myself, they're ultimately better than the cheap and predictable, genuinely boring ending that The Visit eventually delivered.
As the week-long stay progresses, the siblings slowly begin to realise that their grandparents are very mentally ill, rather than just a little confused or disoriented. Nana has what PopPop describes as "sundowning", a syndrome related to dementia that is triggered by dusk or sundown, which is why he requests that neither Becca nor Tyler leave their rooms after 9:30pm. However, before Becca is made aware of the reason behind the curfew, she leaves her room the first night only to see Nana projectile vomiting downstairs. The subsequent nights she and Tyler see Nana stark naked scrabbling at the door opposite theirs, then the next night running and crawling from one end of the hallway to the other repeatedly, and then finally see footage of her finding one of their recording cameras in the living room and taking a kitchen knife to their bedroom door, apparently intent on killing them.
Throughout the week, the film follows an obvious pattern of accidental near-misses and deliberate sabotage to keep Nana and PopPop's identities hidden. Twice the grandparents "just stepped out" when people from the hospital they volunteered at came to check on them, because Nana and PopPop hadn't shown up to their last volunteering session. Then a deliberate sabotage from Nana as she "accidentally" spilled some batter on Becca's laptop, managing to obscure and damage just the camera, so when the grandkids Skyped their Mom she wouldn't be able to accidentally see these two strangers pretending to be her parents. Eventually Becca bothers to scrape the gunk off and shows her Mom the elderly couple through the window, and immediately their Mom tells the stricken pair that those people are not their grandparents, and proceeds to leave to come and get them from the house, promising to call the police from the car.
The dull yet bizarre week culminates in a tense game of Yahtzee, of all things, and Nana and PopPop at this point have disintegrated mentally to barely lucid bickering, yet are still trying to pretend as though everything's normal. Becca manages to find her dead grandparents along with the murder weapon - a bloody hammer - in the basement that the imposters told her to stay out of due to "toxic mould" (hands up who knows that's not how mould works - it's airborne, suckers), along with evidence that the hospital the real grandparents volunteered at was a mental hospital. Cue the escaped mental patients giving up any pretence of being sane, and Nana proceeding to attack Becca, while PopPop rubs his soiled adult diaper in Tyler's face, as he's a germaphobe. Becca manages to stab Nana with a shard of broken mirror after Nana smashed her face into it, whilst Tyler rugby-tackles PopPop then slams the fridge door on his head multiple times, right before their Mom arrives with the police. The end. Literally that's it. That was the grand finale. Apart from the 13-year-old Tyler rapping over the end credits. That was the rotten cherry on top of a mediocre cake.