Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…You’ll never think of visiting your grandparents in the same way ever again. I just have to say, congratulations M. Night Shyamalan for making a triumphant return to the horror genre. Blumhouse and Universal Pictures’ The Visit is a found footage/documentary style horror film that has a lot to offer as we slowly gear up for the Halloween season in the coming weeks. The film successfully pairs blood curdling thrills with belly laughs. What can be more terrifying than a visit to grandma and grandpa’s that has gone terribly wrong??? Sometimes the best horror films are those that take what is otherwise non-descript or safe and twist it around and turn it inside out. And, that is what you get with The Visit. One of the best parts of the movie is that the–what you thought were spoilers in the trailer–are not quite as they seemed and will still catch you off guard. Perhaps next time you visit your grandparents, you may not want to leave your room after 9:30 in the evening. This is especially true if your grandparents live way out in the sticks where the only connection to the internet is an ethernet cable.
After years of separation and ignoring one another, a single mother (Kathryn Hahn) makes contact over social media with her estranged parents in the woods of Pennsylvania. Reluctantly, she decides to allow her kids Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) to take a train to visit their newly discovered grandparents against Mom’s better judgment. The timing works out because Mom has a new boyfriend that has invited her on a cruise to escape the snow and bask in the sun. Upon arrival in their grandparents’ jerkwater hamlet, Becca and Tyler soon become concerned about their grandparents’ bizarre behavior. Rules like stay out of the basement and don’t leave your room after 9:30 in the evening are just the beginning of the strange and terrifying encounters that lurk behind corners and under porches. Fearful for their lives and virtually cut off from the outside world, Becca and Tyler must carefully and skillfully escape the warm kitchen, delightful cookies, and old world that has them trapped.
Okay, at first I was disappointed that it was going to be another found footage or point-of-view documentary style movie. Unless I had missed something, the preview did not lead me to believe that it would be shot POV. I was hoping for a traditional narrative that was shot mostly objectively. However, as I watched the movie, I actually found the documentary style shoot to work for the film quite well. Took a little getting used to, but in the end, it was a great method for telling this terrifying tale of a visit to grandma’s. Although the pacing does start off on the slow side, it picks up and will have you sucked in before you know it. From the moment that you meet grandma and grandpa, you know that there is just something not right. And, just like a good horror or suspense movie should, you won’t know that that is until the end of the movie during the climax–you most likely won’t see it coming.
One of the many positive elements of the movie is Shyamalan’s ability to integrate humor with the terror. One minute you will be laughing along with the kids, and the next you will shoot right up out of your seat with fright. There are even parts that will gross you out while other parts of the film contain mouth-watering homemade delights. They all work together to disorientate the audience. One of the best methods to ensure a scare is to keep the audience off balance. This way, you can hit them with a jump scare here, a warm moment there, and sneak in from behind and scare them. The disorientation allows for the narrative to build up to the most horrific elements of the movie. It’s like, the audience is in the midst of a horror movie before they know it. Building suspense is paramount to a well-written horror film. Not that jump scares aren’t important, but a film should very rarely ever build a foundation upon solely them. Building suspense lasts, a jump scare is like a firecracker–lows up quickly and dissipates just as fast.
If you are in the mood for a fun horror film before hitting Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida/Hollywood or Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa/Williamsburg, or just want to put on the movie movie on your boyfriend or girlfriend, then definitely check out The Visit while it is in theaters.