★★★★out of ★★★★★
Uh…are you sure you want me to crawl in the oven, Grandma?
Don’t call it a comeback, because it certainly wasn’t, but the Visit is one heck of a fun and yes, scary, movie. Cinematically, this 2015 found footage joint from THE Mr. Shyamalan does a really great job from point A to point Zed. Financially, this little flick did very well for itself too. Costing only around $15 million, it grossed almost $100. Not too shabby for a solid found footage film.
That said, I’m not normally one to cotton to found footage films and I’m always a pinch leery of the premise. And found footage is a premise that’s been stretched awfully thin over the years. In order to overcome this inherent flaw in storytelling, filmmakers now need to embark on a herculean effort to a) find that undiscovered or unutilized found footage hook, and/or b) execute (no pun intended) with superb acting that really draws you into the world created by the found footage. Mr. Shyamalan hits the nail on the head with two relatively unknown Australian kid actors who play 15-year-old Becca and 13-year-old Tyler. Granted, a documentary style found footage film isn’t actually unique, but using a visit with Grandma and Grandpa as the device, is.
In this deceptively simple premise, their recently-divorced Mom, played by the normally super-funny, Kathryn Hahn, is setting off on a cruise with her new boyfriend. The Mom, you see, has been somewhat estranged for many moons from Grandma and Grandpa — and the kids have never meet their Grandparents. Because Grandma and Grandpa are new to the kiddos, but getting older, the industrious millennials decide to make a documentary about Grandma and Grandpa — you kind of see where this is going.
The kids arrive at a super-rural somewhereville creepy farmhouse and the Grandpa quickly and eerily instructs the kiddos not to go in the basement, bedtime is 9:30, and Grandma may/may not be well. Sure Grandpa, sounds legit. Scenes of vomiting, shaking, screamin’, and scratchin’ are interspersed with a very kind and loving set of grandparents. Naturally, Becca and Tyler are concerned, freaked, and more than a little spooked, but in the hookiest of hooks, they have NO ONE to turn to. They’re stuck at the isolated farmhouse and Mom is on a cruise.
The creepy, nay, super-creepy Grandma and Grandpa peculiarities keep on keeping on. The kids try to covertly film these peculiarities to no avail. The try to contact their Mom — also to no avail. The kids become increasingly tense, paranoid, and suspicious of Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa become increasingly weirder, more horrifying, and evil. Yes. Evil. We won’t step on the punch line here, but we will say it’s a very satisfying one. Grandpa and Grandma get their due — maybe, and the kids get their film about Grandma and Grandpa — maybe. This one’s got probably 10+ solid scares, strange bumps in the night, and arguably some of the most off-putting images in recent memory. In the end, Mr. Shyamalan does a great job of leaning almost perfectly on two of the greatest fears mankind has ever known: death and aging.