Over the River and Through the Woods
After a mostly unscheduled six-week absence (bought a house, got married, was without internet for three weeks), I’m back!
A lot has happened in my absence. Two of my favorites, Wes Craven and Roddy Piper, have gone on to the next world, another universally panned Fantastic Four movie was released, and Donald J. Trump is running for president and doing incredibly well in the polls. The only one of these I expected was Fantastic Four.
Another unexpected moment of the last couple of months was seeing a trailer for The Visit and actually wanting to watch it. M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t had a good track record with me since The Village, a movie I truly loathe, and he had seemingly just turned into a journeyman director over the last few years with After Earth and The Last Airbender. Because of this I almost skipped The Visit even though it seemed interesting. I am, however, glad that I didn’t avoid it after all.
The Visit tells the story of Rebecca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), as they go on a weeklong trip to visit their grandparents James and Doris (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan), whom they have never met. Their mother Loreta (Kathryn Hahn), had a falling out with her parents fifteen years earlier and is just starting to warm up to the idea of the kids having a relationship with them. Loreta is going on a cruise with her new boyfriend and has determined that the week she is gone will be a good time for the kids to meet their grandparents, and it seems like she hopes it will lead to a thawing of her own relationship with them.
The narrative is set-up using the concept that Rebecca is filming a documentary about her life for a class that she is taking. She has determined to make getting to know her grandparents, and getting to the bottom of what led to their falling out with Loreta, the centerpiece of the documentary. This leads to Rebecca and Tyler filming most of their visit, and also allows Tyler, also known by the stage name T-Diamond Stylus, to show off his phat rap skills.
As the week progresses, the behavior of Rebecca and Tyler’s grandparents become more erratic. Doris continually has spells in the middle of the night, James spends a lot of time in the woodshed “cleaning” guns, and the children are not allowed in the basement due to mold. The children also come into contact with a few locals checking in on James and Doris, seemingly concerned with their well being. These things eventually lead Rebecca and Tyler to investigate their situation further and they find out a little more than they want to know
The Visit, while not necessarily making up for the last ten plus years of misses, at the very least proves that Shyamalan still has good movies in him. The Visit is not quite the groundbreaking genre work that The Sixth Sense was, but it tells a mean little story of children in peril that, GASP, children can actually watch and enjoy. Imagine that.
The wife and I took our son (along with several other family members) to watch the movie, and he was properly scared but also amused by the film. This is probably the best thing I can say about The Visit; it’s a throwback to a different kind of horror movie, one aimed at adolescents that doesn’t treat them like idiots. It recalls movies like Gremlins, The Goonies, and The Monster Squad. It has sass-mouthed kids dealing with things that are larger than they can comprehend, who then rise to the occasion and overcome the situations they are put in. If your kid talked like T-Diamond Stylus you would wash his mouth out with soap, but to a twelve year old, that’s what’s cool about him. Just like the Frog brothers from The Lost Boys and Rudy from The Monster Squad, Rebecca and Tyler are badasses in the fact that they are normal kids who are not as cool as they want to be in real life, but they overcome their fears and push through.
The Visit has a twist (it is still an M. Night Shyamalan film after all), but it is not a bad one. My only complaint is that I figured it out about twenty minutes in, but I am a grown man who has watched a massive amount of horror movies over the years. To a kid who’s not as familiar with the formula, it will probably be quite a shock.
The Visit is not without its problems (the set-up with the mom is a little weak for one), but overall I enjoyed it, and I believe our son will continue to enjoy it over the years. I am not sure whether or not Shyamalan deliberately set out to make a kid-friendly horror movie, but I think he did a fine job of it either way, and I hope that this is the first of many horror/ scary movies aimed at a younger crowd. Over the years the teen market has become diluted with pseudo horror claptrap like Twilight, so maybe The Visit will inspire other filmmakers to go out on a limb and trust that kids aren’t stupid and can handle bigger ideas and themes. And maybe, just maybe, there will be less sparkling vampires in our future.
Until next time…