Nutshell: great twist, not-so-great movie. Grade: C
Visiting gramma and grampy. Who doesn’t love that? Cookies, hot chocolate, tons of love and affection…and locking yourself in your room ’til sunup. Not what you recall growing up? Well, that’s The Visit, and while there are tons to really like here, the whole doesn’t equal the sum of it’s few scary parts.
“People are scared of old people for no reason.” There’s a great line, and a killer theme, with M. Night’s use of scary things like the fear of loss of control as people get older. He even pulls out Sundown Syndrome, a real thing that definitely can be written sinister with the right touch.
However, The Visit just doesn’t seem to connect with the creepy most of the time. There are plenty of “gotcha!” moments, and some serious scary here and there, but these are tidbits in an otherwise bland buffet. Perhaps that’s because I saw several excellent plot ideas that either drifted off, or were simply dropped. There’s a good reason why a few are left hanging, but all-in-all the sense of cloistered dread just isn’t there. If it was, I wouldn’t have cared about the other storylines…but as it is, they feel unfinished, rather than a moment that adds up to a satisfying whole.
The good? As Pop-Pop and Nana, Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan are absolutely amazing. And while I love Kathryn Hahn (I’m a huge Parks & Rec nerd), she’s not given much to work with.
The not-so-good? Enough with the white middle-class teen boys wanting to be rap stars. I get it; they’re silly. And while teens Becca and Tyler are working out their own issues (M. Night does love him some family parable), Tyler’s rapping isn’t lighthearted, it’s pointless. A quirk that tries to rise to characterization. These lead characters aren’t fully fleshed out, they’re simply “kids whose father just left”. So when the creepy starts up, I wasn’t invested. Even the climax had me shrugging my shoulders. Though maybe that’s because here in the US of A, nobody’s gonna kill kids in a movie. So I just sat back and waited to see how they’d get out of this situation. And spoiler alert: just like the Brown Hornet, they naturally escape, unharmed!
The Visit is for folks dying to hit the theaters and eat popcorn, or horror fans who need a fix. Any fix. The twist is absolutely fantastic, but the film surrounding it is mediocre. If M. Night had pushed this to R, or at least trimmed some of the sillier jokes and added more meaningful sense of dread throughout, The Visit would have been amazing. Now it’s just another film to add to his all-over-the-place oeuvre. You’re so close to another great one, M. The Visit hints at it. Just don’t force it. I’ll be waiting.