In THE VISIT, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) set out on a week-long trip to spend and visit with their mother’s parents. Their mom (Kathryn Hahn) left home as a teenager after horrible fight and has never spoken to them since then. Through the miracle of the Internet, her parents have located their long-estranged daughter and have begged to spend a week with their grandchildren while they still can. Becca and Tyler’s father abandoned his wife and children and moved out to California with a younger woman and Becca’s mom has really been stressing out lately. She and Tyler convince their Mom it will be a great idea. Also, while the kids are gone, they are sending Mom on a cruise with her boyfriend for some needed rest and relaxation (none of them have been away from each other since dad left). In the meantime, Becca is a budding filmmaker and decides to make a documentary of the whole experience, in the hopes that it can bring some much needed catharsis and closure to her mother.
So, the kids board a train and set out to meet Pop Pop (Grandpa played by Peter McRobbie) and Nana (Grandma played by Deanna Dunagan). The couple live away from town in the country, foreshadowing the sense of eeriness and foreboding that will occur. At first things are fine. Nana loves to bake, Pop Pop is funny, and both grandparents are so pleased to see their grandchildren. However, that night after bed time, things start to get spooky. When morning comes, it’s as though nothing happens. But the kids know something just isn’t quite right and the strange things that happened on the first night of their visit quickly escalate.
I really enjoyed THE VISIT. I found it an entertaining romp of good fun. There were parts that I found really, really funny. There were other parts that scared me. There was even one scene in the movie that completely grossed me out. I enjoyed the variety in tone of the movie, but I know some people won’t. The movie has some great acting. There’s a major twist in the movie, but neither me or none of the people I was with figured it out. Also, Kathryn Hahn plays the mom and I really like her as an actress.
The film is being marketed as a “found footage” movie, but it’s really not that. Instead, it’s actually a faux documentary (not a mockumentary). Found footage movies are just that: they are supposed to be pieces of film footage that were “found” after some horrifying event. Mockumentaries are faux documentaries that mock the documentary format (thing anything by Christopher Guest). THE VISIT isn’t either one of those. It’s a fictional movie, but one that if filmed and edited together as a real documentary. Although the subject matter is different, THE VISIT most reminded me of a small little movie I saw several years ago entitled AMERICAN ZOMBIE. I liked that movie and I liked THE VISIT.
With that said, one really can’t talk about THE VISIT without talking about the director, M. Night Shyamalan. Fifteen years ago, Shyamalan was one of the biggest director/writer/producers in Hollywood. Things started going downhill in his career with THE VILLAGE and until now have just gotten worse. I actually liked THE VILLAGE, but didn’t think it was as strong as other Shyamalan movies. I also love LADY IN THE WATER. However, I hated THE HAPPENING and have yet to see THE LAST AIRBENDER or AFTER EARTH, although I’ve heard they are both awful. Although the past few years have been rough for Shyamalan, THE VISIT is a movie that shows he still has it. I believe years from now it will be the film that is pointed to as the turn around for his career. Hopefully, he will be able to build upon the success of this feature and continue making the great movies he used to make.