This relatively simple parable (by M. Night standards anyway) is such a banger. I genuinely adore it and often revisit just because. Perhaps it’s the two leads that do it for me, and even though they’re somewhat precocious teens, their chemistry together just works.
I’ll let you judge for yourself, if you haven’t already enjoyed this one.
The Visit (2015)
Two siblings become increasingly frightened by their grandparents’ disturbing behaviour while visiting them on vacation.
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) go and visit their Nana and Pop Pop for a week’s vacation. So far so normal but the kids have never met their grandparents, following a 15 year estrangement from their daughter (Kathryn Hahn), the kids’ Mom.
Becca is a would be film maker, determined to make the meeting and their family history into a documentary. Tyler is a novice rapper and self-claimed ladies’ man – but also co-camera operator. While Mom is no longer in touch with her parents, she isn’t against the meeting and is off on a cruise for the week with her new boyfriend Miguel.
The kids arrive and meet Nana and Pop Pop at the train station. So far so good, Nana brings baked goods and they seem sweet. Mom’s childhood home is just as she’d described it and Becca sets up the perfect establishing shot for her film: the tree swing outside the house.
Things are fine and wholesome until the grandparents’ behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre. Nana has a tendency to stroll around naked at night, howling and scratching at the doors – while Pop Pop hides a pretty gross secret. One germ-phobic Tyler is dismayed to find out.
It should be pointed out that both children have their own idiosyncrasies, born of trauma from their parents’ divorce. Tyler is, as mentioned above, OCD while Becca has severe self-esteem issues. The documentary proves to be quite painful at times as its director attempts to dig the truth out of Nana about what really happened between them and her Mom.
Nana isn’t so open to the chat and becomes more and more distant, laughing at walls and disengaging from the real world. At points she asks Becca to climb INTO the oven to help her clean it. Meanwhile, during a brief outing, Pop Pop has a violent outburst at a stranger in the street.
On video call Mom passes all this off as them simply being strange people but the kids grow more and more concerned until it becomes clear that… well, things are afoot.
The climax is dramatic and wonderful and I’ll park this here without spoiling it for you.
When I first saw this film I spent a lot of time over-imagining what the twist would be. I guess that was half of the fun. I’m not mad at all by how it turns out and although of course it’s bat shit crazy, it’s also quite contained for a film by this director. Or, on reflection, is it? It’s actually bonkers.
Hahn is wonderful as Mom, who concludes the documentary-within-the-film with a heart-breaking speech about letting going of hatred and resentment. It’s hard not to lose your shit because she’s right and there are many unsatisfactory elements to this story in terms of closure.
But this film belongs to the kids who manage to be sympathetic characters to root for, while still being kids. Sure they’re a little more showy than your average teenager but their easy relationship together is lovely. While this isn’t a found footage movie per se, it still shares a lot of the elements of that sub-genre as so much of it is viewed through the lens and I enjoy it very much.
Is it scary? Well, it’s eery and unsettling certainly with some horrifying bits. Some of which need a second, third or tenth viewing to catch – and the conclusion for both our protagonists is both nasty and terrifying in equal measure.
I bloody love it.