It's not that Becca and Tyler are really excited about taking a trip to see their estranged grandparents. After all, they've never even met them before. In fact, since their mom stormed out of her parents' lives when she was 19, she hasn't really seen or spoken to them either. But Nana and Pop Pops have repeatedly reached out in hopes of meeting the kids. And from Becca's perspective, this trip, this newly forged connection could be a perfect opportunity.
Namely, that it will allow Becca to procure the "elixir" her mom so desperately needs.
To most people that kind of talk probably sounds overly dramatic. But that's the kind of introspective, bright and thoughtful teen Becca is. She's determined to record their whole trip as a sort of cinéma vérité that will serve the dual purpose of school project and, well, mythical quest.
You see, ever since her father found "something better" and walked out on them all a few years back, everything in their family has been on a downward spiral. Her young brother is oddly germophobic. Becca has become sort of adverse to looking in the mirror. Worse, Mom can't seem to break out of a pattern of self-defeating choices.
If, in the course of this interview-based documentary video, Becca can help her grandparents and her mom see just how much they miss each other, just how much they need each other, why, Becca's pretty sure that could set everything on the right path again. It would be the magical healing elixir that her family needs.
That shouldn't be too hard to make happen, should it? I mean, that's what families are supposed to do. No matter how harshly Mom has spoken of her parents in the past, they can't be that bad! Surely they can forgive and forget.
They're not monsters, after all.
Becca's efforts to get the forgiveness elixir for her mom is both selfless and lovingly thoughtful. And at one point Mom even admits that forgiveness and reparation with her parents have always been within her reach. She recognizes, finally, that it was pride that made her refuse to grasp onto them. She encourages her daughter to never make that same mistake. "Please don't hold on to anger, Becca" she tells the girl.
Both Becca and Tyler fight to protect each other.
We see that Mom and her newest boyfriend are enjoying a week away together at a beach retreat getaway. During a Skype session, Mom dances around in a bikini top. Nana accidentally displays her bare backside and, on another occasion, is seen fully nude from the rear. Tyler poses in a video clip with his shirt off, reportedly offering a little "candy for the ladies." He raps about puberty and his appeal to "skanks" and "hos" at his school. Women ogle shirtless men who are showing off in a contest.
Pop Pops explains that Nana suffers from a specific dementia (called "sundowning") that only takes hold of her at night. We see her running around the house slamming and scraping at the walls. As the condition worsens, she pounds herself in the head, swings a knife threateningly and smashes Becca face-first into a mirror (which shatters). The kids catch Pop Pops with a shotgun barrel in his mouth.
One woman is hanged. Another is stabbed repeatedly with a large shard of glass. We see a hammer covered in caked blood and hair, and two decaying corpses. Both kids are battered and pummeled—thrown to the ground, bloodied with blows and dragged by the hair. A man is tackled, kicked and has his head slammed repeatedly into a refrigerator door (just out of the frame).
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and two s-words join one or two uses each of "h---," "a--" and "b--ch." God's name is combined once with "d--n." Tyler flips his middle finger at his sister. He decides he wants to use female pop star names instead of swear words, turning artists such as Shakira and Katy Perry into joke-focused cusses.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Nana smokes a cigarette. Tyler mimes smoking a joint.
Other Negative Elements
Vomit and excrement are used for the dual purposes of humor and horror, with someone getting a face full of the latter.
What is it that teeters and totters a dramatic movie over into the realm of horror? Some filmmakers believe that push demands twisted depictions of horrid gruesomeness. Others opt for shocking creepy-crawlies that leap from the shadows and skitter across the ceiling.
Here, famed suspense director M. Night Shyamalan suggests that horror only requires a youthful point of view and a pair of grandparents showing the weaknesses of old age—frailties that include such things as the spits and spats of dementia and the embarrassing bodily rebellion of incontinence. And that quirky concept, quite frankly, is what gives The Visit its initial sense of humor and freshness in this genre.
(Though freshness is perhaps the wrong descriptor when we're talking about soiled adult diapers, isn't it?)
The Visit ends with some solidly wise advice. And it's certainly more palatable than your average bloodcurdling, R-rated gush-in-the-nighter. But like all horror pics, the things that disquiet us most must be amplified before they reach mall multiplexes. Which means odd nocturnal movements become frantic and crazed. Awkward dribbles become spews. Before you know it, the zest of an original perspective explodes against the screen in predictably wincing and foul and violent ways.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Olivia DeJonge as Becca; Ed Oxenbould as Tyler; Kathryn Hahn as Loretta (Mom); Deanna Dunagan as Nana; Peter McRobbie as Pop Pops
September 11, 2015
January 5, 2016