It’s better than it looks. So this is about a pair of kids (Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould) who get sent to spend a week with their grandparents that they have never met so their mother can get a much needed vacation. The more time they spend with their grandparents, the more questions arise from their behavior: are they just old, or is there something more sinister going on here? When I say that this is better than it looks, you may think to yourself, “well, that this isn’t saying much.” The trailer to this looked TERRIBLE, so much so that my wife and I had much speculation on just how bad it was going to be. But lo and behold, above average reviews started to seep in, so I watched this and found myself actually able to get into it.
This was directed by the infamous M. Night Shyamalan, a man who has been hurting for something that is better than awful for some time now (although I’m that one guy who kind of likes The Happening… but that’s neither here nor there). The most noteworthy thing that you may want to know about this in advance is that this is not a straight horror film, it’s more of a horror comedy, with the split being about 70/30 in favor of horror. You laugh, because there’s no other reaction that you can have, and it is more WTF laughter than anything. Both of the grandparents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie) are really good in their roles, and they know how to sell crazy. The kids are pretty good as well, although it made me facepalm whenever this little white boy burst into his freestyle raps.
One production choice that I have mixed feelings about is the decision to make this a found footage film. While it does certainly add to the claustrophobia of the house, it also takes away from it because there are shots featured that make no sense. For example, when they are first meeting the grandparents, you get a distance shot of all of the characters hugging. Who is behind the camera? Nobody knows. It kind of takes you out of it whenever there is a mystery cameraman shot, and I think that they ultimately should have gone for more of a mix of handheld/traditionally shot movie, but that’s just me. This is M. Night, so you know there is a twist coming, and I’ve gotta say: even though I was expecting a twist, it did “get” me, and I had an audible reaction when it happened. This is by no means a perfect film, but it is effective enough for me to give it a decent recommendation.
The Visit (2015) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire