It’s Not Bad
We’re scared of old people, and it’d be better if we all just admitted it. There’s nothing quite so terrifying as seeing the aging process first hand. Wrinkled skin, odd bodily noises, an absence of mind that let’s them get away with saying some really disturbing stuff – as far as many of us are concerned, the elderly are aliens from another time period. But they’re also an unavoidable reminder of our own fate. The knowledge that we’ll share in the same physical and mental breakdowns perpetuates a desire for the fountain of youth, even if we don’t always admit it.
The Visit greatly benefits from this premise. Our two young protagonists, Becca and Tyler, are invited to stay with their grandparents, whom they’ve never met. The uneasy prospect of staying for a week with people who are complete strangers is made even more unsettling by the creepy behavior these old people exhibit. The movie is smart, never taking its young leads for granted, and functions well when it’s exploring the fractured dynamic between these two generations.
The found footage style of the movie serves as the literal lense through which the children are experiencing this foreign and often times very terrifying experience. We’re at their level, seeing what they see, and hearing what they hear. It’s not a gimmick so much as a playful way to tell the story. It’s a joy to watch a movie that knows it’s a movie and the cinematography makes for some of the best sequences of the film. While Becca, the aspiring filmmaker, makes the genre palatable because she knows where to place a camera, she does make one too many comments about the integrity of being a filmmaker for my liking. We get it, M. Night, you know what mise-en-scene is. We’re all very impressed.
The movie cashes in humor for straightforward tension in the latter half of the film, which works to keep us racing towards the end, but loses some of the thoughtfulness found in the former half. M. Night Shyamalan isn’t known for being particularly subtle, and this movie suffers from some of the same heavy handed moral lessons we’ve seen in the past. While these lessons serve to round out the film by adding a new layer to our characters and the premise, it’s placed on a bit too thick near the end. The film was scary enough as an examination of old age without the added elements at the end, even if it pays off in pure visceral scares.
It’s hard not to discuss this film as a comeback for the oft-shafted director, who breathes life not only into his career, but also the found footage genre. Often cited for his notorious twists and unbelievable premises, The Visit feels restrained and down to earth compared to his last few ventures. Gone, too, are any recognizable cast members, which helps us slip into the found footage world easier. M. Night Shyamalan gives us a film that feels raw, dosed with a healthy amount of humor that makes this seemingly absurd premise believable, and delivers a fair amount of scares in the process.
The Visit preys on some of our simplest fears, while making a very fun and watchable experience. Despite some heavy handed lessons, the movie always feels fresh and works on all of the levels it operates on. It may not be as good as his earlier works, but anyone looking for a unique take on the found footage genre should pay a visit to their local cinema.
Not even sorry for that last one.
Steve loves his grandparents and you can follow him on Twitter.