Verdict: Full of inconsistencies, “The Visit” is a film you should completely skip, or at least wait for the free showing here at Cinefest in a few months.
“The Visit” is a comedy/horror movie that did scare me. Sadly, it scares for all the wrong reasons. The grade here is simple: D for DON’T go see it, unless you have a very compelling reason to do so.
The movie tells the story of two kids, Becca and Tyler, about 14 and 11, who go visit their grandparents for the first time. Fifteen years before, their mother ran away from home with her college professor. While there, the two find out their grandparents are psychologically deranged and want to kill them.
These two kids are the best part of the film, and maybe the only reason this grade is a D instead of an F. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould deliver two fun, smart and courageous characters who are working on a personal family documentary. It’s funny to see DeJonge, so young, and yet aware of documentary styles and rules most filmmakers only learn about in college. Oxenbould has a true talent for rapping and provides gags every time he sings.
Their chemistry feels real too. They argue and call each other names, but come back five minutes later to solve a problem, just like siblings do. From this point on, however, it’s all downhill.
First, there’s a serious question of style. The whole film is shot as if we are seeing the documentary made by Becca and Tyler. This means the entire photography is plagued by mistakes a child would do in her first film: things are never framed correctly, actors are cut by the edge of the picture for no reason, and the camera is in some awkward handheld position. Yet, all shots are exposed to light perfectly and the colors are balanced and natural.
Here’s why this style falls apart. How can the same two persons be talented enough to get every color exposure right, and yet, be unable to frame subjects and objects correctly? The style would have made more sense if the footage also looked rough, archival, colored wrong and so on. It could have even served as a revolt to big, “perfect-looking” Hollywood films, which the horror genre can do better than most other genres.
The same criticism applies to editing. It all blends well together, as if Becca were a professional editor herself. There are no risks, and there are no interesting jump cuts (when consecutive shots don’t quite match, creating an effect of discomfort). Editing is as bland as it can be.
At the end of the film, there is a plot point as unbelievable as it can get: (SPOILER) the couple who picked up the kids aren’t the real grandparents. It throws the whole script out of the window and makes you want to quit right there. It makes you question: hasn’t the mother shown the kids the pictures of their grandparents before they travelled, as any mother would do? I found myself wishing for a remote control.
It is shame, really. “The Visit” has the right story idea and the perfect protagonists, but at no moment does it surprise or scare. It is always that “I saw that coming” feeling, without any buildup of tension. One might feel this movie could have become a cult for this millennial generation – something we would be excited to tell our kids about 20 years from now. Instead, it is just a forgettable film in the horror genre.
To my readers: After this film, I feel we need to do the horror genre some justice. Use #Signalfilmreview on Twitter to tell me what is your favorite horror movie. The top five suggestions will be here on Halloween week!