Movies: The Visit

Okay, so I have mixed feelings about M. Night Shyamalan's work. I know his movies are full of holes and flaws, and it has become a pastime of some people to point those out. And I honestly wasn't as blown away by The Sixth Sense as so many people seem to have been when it came out. But I do, in general, enjoy his movies. I think they're nicely done, and I usually am at least a bit entertained. It's only after the fact, when one thinks very much about them, that one sees the lack of clothing on the emperor. While watching (at least the first time), I'm usually drawn in enough not to be diverted in such ways.

Alas, The Visit did not draw me in. It was weird but not scary, and the "mystery" failed to engross me. I had it figured out fairly early on, and there wasn't any point at which I was all that worried for the main characters. Plus, the moments in which the characters made ridiculously bad decisions (as in so many horror movies) were egregious enough to be distracting.

I hadn't really read anything about the movie before watching it, which is my preferred way of going into a Shyamalan film. Turns out it's about two kids visiting their grandparents for the first time ever. Rebecca is 15 and an aspiring filmmaker, so the movie is all from the point of view of her filming the titular visit, interviewing her grandparents and so on. Her younger brother Tyler is 13 and a would-be rapper.

These kids' parents are divorced and the mother estranged from the grandparents which is why Rebecca and Tyler have never met them. And also why their mother does not accompany them on the trip. She just puts them on a train and off they go. This alone seems like a terrible decision, but I was able to let it slide. Later on, when there should have been calls to 911—that's when I was like, NOPE.

The bulk of the movie is Rebecca and Tyler trying to make sense of weird things happening at their grandparents' house. Their grandmother is "sundowning," which means she goes crazy every night at 10:00 or so. Their grandfather is incontinent and hides the dirty diapers in the barn, and he also dresses up for nonexistent costume parties. Yet when the kids Skype with their mother (who is out on a cruise with her boyfriend), they play down the bizarre nature of things. Or at least Rebecca does. She's keen to get her grandparents to confess some kind of forgiveness so that their mom can be reunited with them, so I guess she feels it works against her plan to say, "Nana and Pop Pop are crazy!"

I won't give the twist away, though it's pretty standard fare and easily seen coming.

On the whole, I was kind of bored and disappointed with the whole thing. Rebecca and Tyler fail to be engaging enough characters to carry the film, and the grandparents are certainly creepy in some ways, but I didn't find them entirely threatening. The whole thing felt like Paranormal Activity Lite. Which might be right for some audiences, but does nothing for me.

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