Tuesday, September 01, 2015

“The Visit”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club advance screening of the new M. Night Shyamalan thriller, “The Visit”.


After a mother sends her children to spend a week with their grandparents, will they be endangered when the elderly couple exhibits some peculiar behavior?


Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are being sent to visit their grandparents for a week while their divorced mother (Kathryn Hahn) goes on a Caribbean cruise with her latest boyfriend.  While this might normally be a less than ideal trip for early adolescents like these two, the only reason they’re even remotely interested in this is because they’ve never met their grandparents before; since their mother had a falling out with her parents many years ago, these kids are anticipating being spoiled by the grandparents they never got to know. 

The siblings nevertheless see this an inconvenience as it interrupts their more serious pursuits in life – Rebecca is an aspiring documentarian while Tyler fancies himself as the next great rap music singer who is capable of busting the sickest rhymes.  When Nana and Pop-pop (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie) meet the kids at the train station, it’s the first time they’ve ever set eyes on each other, yet they immediately recognize their kin.  Not long after being brought to their remote Pennsylvania farmhouse, however, Rebecca and Tyler notice increasingly odd conduct that worries them considerably. 

Are these adolescents allowing their fertile imagination to run away with itself or are their grandparents really as bizarre as they appear?  On the last day of their visit, the two are so concerned about their safety that they reach out to their mother, who by now has returned home.  Once she finally reveals a horrifying secret about her parents, the three suddenly realize that the children are in immense danger the longer they remain in the house.  Can Rebecca and Tyler escape and return home safely or will they be imperiled during their stay?


With a movie such as this, it’s of the utmost importance that the audience buy into the experience by totally suspending disbelief; part of the implicit contract between the audience and the filmmaker is that no questions of logic will be asked by the audience so long as the film provides the requisite moments crucial to the success of a good shriek flick (and “The Visit” certainly contains them, including the hackneyed “don’t-look-in-the-basement” scene).  For this motion picture, it is particularly imperative that the audience strictly adhere to the ask-me-no-questions philosophy because “The Visit” will not stand up to such scrutiny. 

The saving grace of “The Visit” is the fact that it also doesn’t take itself too seriously – just seriously enough to sustain the horror aspect of the genre; as for the rest of the movie, it’s sometimes quite funny.  Make no mistake, it’s no rollicking laugh-fest, but there are some amusing moments scattered about just to remind you that it’s not pretentious.  Some smart casting decisions help out considerably here, especially with respect to comedy stalwart Kathryn Hahn and the increasingly creepy Deanna Dunagan.

Speaking of the casting, the two kids are at least well cast in the sense that they do bear enough of a resemblance that they could conceivably be siblings; however, they come across as being so precocious that they occasionally border on being obnoxious (and in some instances, manage to cross that border quite effortlessly).  Whether they were playing to the way the role was written or these were choices made by the two actors may forever remain a mystery.  All of that being said, however, if you’re looking for escapist entertainment that will allow alternating between gasps and chuckles, “The Visit” may prove the appropriate choice. 


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