By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S THE VISIT ABOUT?
Two teens take a week-long trip to their grandparents' house. Geriatric terror ensues.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: B+)
Horror, humor, and heart. Balancing the three takes a master filmmaker, something that M. Night Shyamalan hasn't been since the days of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. After a decade's worth of duds like The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, the writer-director has been both punchline and punching bag to critics and film-goers alike. As a fan of his earlier work, I've long hoped that he'd find his stride again, and with the undeniably creepy The Visit, M. Night is back in the game.
I'm not drawn to scary movies generally, but Shyamalan's work, at its best, has a strong humanity at its core that appeals to me. There's an undercurrent of compassion and interpersonal connection that tethers the films to the light, keeping them from utterly surrendering to darkness the way most horror films do. Also, this is his funniest, best-written film since Signs. Of course it's not perfect. Some plot points crumble if you overthink them, and like most “found-footage” films characters carry cameras in situations where in reality they'd have dropped them. Still, The Visit is well-cast, well-written, and well-acted. It'll make you laugh, scream, and (possibly) cry. Welcome back, Night.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
The Visit is rated PG-13. A teenage boy raps about “ho's jumping into his bed” (his sister counters with a crack about misogynistic lyrics). We see an elderly woman's bare behind. There's one f-word and 4-5 moderate profanities. I can't go into much detail on violence without delving into spoilers, so let's just say that adolescents are terrorized by the elderly, there's bodies, a little bit of blood, and fecal matter, so I wouldn't let kids see it. Teens and up is fine.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Letting go of anger can help your relationships to heal. Do whatever it takes to keep your children safe.
After The Visit, revisit my favorite M. Night Shyamalan movie, the gritty superhero thriller Unbreakable.
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