‘The Visit’ fails at eliciting horror, only entices humor

If “The Visit” was reviewed as a straightforward experience, it would be necessary to ding it. The characters are flat and irritating, the performances vacillate wildly, there’s wildly inappropriate moments of sentimentality, and the plot on its own feels exploitative and mean. However, looking at the film as an experience, as a night out, it should be praised for it’s combination of laughter, cheering and excited chatter in one film.

The film follows two teenage children, Rebecca, the older and aspiring filmmaker, and Tyler, a young aspiring rapper, as they visit their estranged grandparents for the first time. But at night, things go bump, and their grandparent’s behavior gets increasingly erratic, prompting terror. But a plot summary is basically irrelevant to a film this deliciously misguided.

Moments are so individually wacky and woefully inept at producing terror that the audience was rolling in stunned laughter. What other movie could offer a scuttling grandma chasing her children in a horrible spider crawl, then dusting herself off, announcing chicken pot pie for dinner and lifting her dress to expose her backside (a posterior the film has a strange obsession with)? What other movie could use the exclamation of “Yahtzee!” as a horror scare line?

Other than the excellent sound design, the movie is wonderfully inept. The found footage conceit of the movie feels forced and stage-y, and adds nothing, while being repeatedly violated by inserted title cards and establishing shots. The acting is all arch and hammy, even in the moments of inappropriate, cloying sentimentality. The tone lurches wildly, preventing any tension being established.

The grandparents are written as pure bonkers, all mugging and flailing, while the children feel assembled by a committee of 40-year-olds, operating almost entirely in ticks and tropes. They’re both ceaselessly precocious and smug, and parallels between the pretensions of the 15 year-old wannabee filmmaker to the director, the infamous Shyamalan, are inevitably drawn. Even simple tasks such as the aforementioned concept-breaking establishing shots elicited laughter, such as the repeated, prominent shots of a full moon to establish nighttime – a frustrated audience member yelled “fifth time this week!”

Nevertheless, everyone in the theater left smiling, laughing and making catty remarks. Not one spine shivered or goosebump raised. For an evening’s entertainment, there was no fault in it. The question isn’t if “The Visit” will become a cult classic, a pinnacle of high camp; it’s when.