31 Days of Halloween — Day 14: The Visit (2015) — by Dr. Shock

visitEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

Alright, I’m just gonna say it: The Visit scared the hell out of me.

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this 2015 movie follows brother and sister Rebecca and Tyler Jamison (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) as they journey to a small Pennsylvania town to spend a week with their estranged grandparents. Their mother Paula (Kathryn Hahn) had left home 15 years earlier to marry the kids’ father, a man her parents didn’t approve of, and she hasn’t spoken to either of them since. Even after the marriage fell apart (he left her for another woman, and now lives in California), Paula stubbornly refused to reconcile with her mother and father. Then, out of the blue, they contact her, asking if they could meet their grandchildren. So, after saying their goodbyes, Rebecca and Tyler climb aboard a train and are off to spend time with an elderly couple they’ve never met before.
After greeting them at the train station, their grandparents, who they call Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie), drive Rebecca and Tyler to the remote farmhouse that’s been their home since Paula was a small child. A novice filmmaker, Rebecca brought along several cameras to document their visit, and at first things seem to go very well. Once the sun goes down, however, Nana becomes a different person altogether, roaming the halls in the nude and acting as if she’s a wild animal. Pop-Pop tries to allay the kids fears, telling them that Nana suffers from a rare medical condition that only affects her at night, but when things go from bad to worse, and pop-pop also starts acting strangely, the youngsters find themselves wondering just how dangerous their grandparents truly are.

There are a few things about The Visit you should know going in. For one, it’s a found footage horror film: while making her documentary, Rebecca’s cameras capture the events as they spin out of control. Also, the kids are dealing with abandonment issues (due to their father’s leaving), and have strong personalities (Rebecca is very intelligent, and talks as if she’s swallowed a Thesaurus; while Tyler considers himself a hip-hop artist, and raps on more than one occasion). Yet none of the above detracts from the horror that Shyamalan slowly unleashes on his audience. In fact, thanks to the excellent performances delivered by the two youngsters, I came to like Rebecca and Tyler, and as a result my fears for their safety grew more intense with each passing scene.

Yet it’s Deanna Dunagan’s turn as Nana that makes The Visit so damn terrifying. Though told to stay in their room after 9:30 p.m., the kids do, on occasion, wander out after that time (for various reasons), and the first night, Rebecca spots Nana vomiting profusely while walking around downstairs. Pop-pop tells Rebecca that Nana had contracted a 24-hour virus, but that doesn’t explain her behavior the second night. With Nana close by, even a simple game of hide-and-seek can be horrifying experience, and the scene where she asks Rebecca to climb into the oven to clean it is positively nerve-racking. McRobbie is also quite good as the kindly but oft-confused grandfather, yet it’s Dunagan’s Nana who will have you on-edge throughout the movie.

Like many people, I’ve been disappointed with M. Night Shyamalan’s recent offerings, and while the jury is still out as to whether The Visit will eventually rank as one of the director’s best movies (alongside The Sixth Sense,Unbreakable, Signs and The Village), it is, at the very least, a return to form, and for the first time in a while I can’t wait to see what M. Night Shyamalan comes up with next.

— Dr. Shock

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15 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 14: The Visit (2015) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 14 – Curtains (1983)

    Being that this was the first time I had watched Curtains, I actually had some mildly high expectations going into it. It has enough of a reputation that I’ve known of it for several years. For many years, there was a lot of talk of the movie in favor of Curtains finally being released on DVD. For the record, if you have any desire to watch Curtains, you certainly can’t go wrong with the Blu-Ray release by Synapse Films. Seeing the cover many times on Amazon, that damn doll always manages to creep me out. In addition, this is an early 80’s slasher we’re talking about. That guarantees that I’m going to see some good deaths with at least being inventive for it’s time. Unfortunately, this film ended up being a giant dud for me to the point where it may now be my least favorite original slasher of the 80’s. There’s so many things wrong with the film and the struggle to come up with a list of things I liked is even more difficult than trying to survive a horror movie if you’re a minority.

    My initial problem with the film centers around the six women that are staying at the director’s home. Since they all want the same role in Stryker’s next film, they all look alike. Add in the fact that the film takes place over a few days, which means change of clothes and how they’re wearing their hair, it was so difficult for me to keep straight who was who. It figures that the one actress who wanted the role and actually looked different (Being blonde has that effect) was killed off before she even got to Stryker’s house. If I can’t keep the actresses straight, I’m not going to have any emotional attachment to them. This is further worsened by the fact that I remembered absolutely nothing about two of the last actresses surviving including the one that was treated like the final girl. Apparently, this nearly official final girl was named Tara. It’s a shame they didn’t do anything with her in the film that made her memorable prior to then. For the other actresses, if you are starting to remember who they are and what’s special about them, they’re killed off quickly afterward. I don’t know why Laurian got to live for so long, but Christie was killed much earlier.

    Then there’s the character of Matthew. Being one of two main males in the movie, I was able to easily keep track of who Matthew was. The problem with him though is that I have zero idea of his purpose. He’s randomly introduced as “And this is Matthew”, he had some freaky fun with one of the girls in the hot tub (Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you which girl), and apparently enjoys rides on snowmobiles while drinking. At best, all I can assume is that he’s either Stryker’s assistant or he takes care of the house or idk…Stryker’s secret love slave? It’s only been a couple of hours since I watched the movie and I can’t think of a single time when Matthew uttered a single word.

    The sub-plot of famed actress, Samantha Sherwood, escaping a mental asylum to reach Styker’s house to avenge the fact that her part-time lover would dare to cast the role without her didn’t do anything for me. I imagine part of the purpose of the sub-plot is to set up the idea that Samantha may be the killer. The problem is that it’s she’s such an obvious killer that you can’t go with her as the killer when your killer is wearing a mask to hide its identity from the viewers. If Samantha isn’t the killer than her sub-plot isn’t even necessary to the film. Take away Samantha’s sub-plot and the film is still about a group of actresses trying to win the role of a character while they’re slowly knocked off one-by-one. This sub-plot also created a pretty noticeable plot hole. After Samantha’s escape, she’s shown in a bedroom with another woman that was hidden by the camera. We’re told that this mystery woman played a big role in helping Samantha escaped. This woman is never seen or mentioned again. What was the point of this scene? Personally, I would have preferred seeing Curtains without Samantha at all. If nothing else, it would allow more screen time for uhh *Looks up a couple of paragraphs* Laurian and Tara. Maybe I would have actually remembered these two characters when I literally just briefly talked about them minutes ago.

    A significant flaw of Curtains is how long and drawn out a lot of the scenes are. This first became noticeable when we met Amanda, the blonde actress that was killed too early on. There’s an overly long sequence dedicated to her home invasion/rape that bored me to tears. This was the first time the viewers got to see Amanda, so it’s not as if there was any emotional attachment yet. Very quickly, I was able to predict that it wasn’t going to be a real rape scene and instead it’s just some freaky role play. As a result, the scene is even more boring because I’m waiting on the guy to attack her so that we can get the big surprise reveal of her knowing the guy. The build up can never be too long, otherwise, you risk the loss of caring about it. The fact that Amanda was killed shortly afterward makes her entire involvement in the film feel pointless. Again, the film would have been better off dedicating her screen time to Laurian and Tara.

    The long and drawn out scenes apply to the deaths as well. Each one takes forever to happen and it even gets to the point where there’s unintentional comedy. The death that sticks out the most is the most well known scene of the film – the ice skating kill. First, we had to endure an overly long scene of Christie ice skating. Ugh, I don’t care. Then she randomly notices a doll buried in the snow. Again, I don’t care. Then the killer appears with a mask and skates towards Christie. I slightly care. The killer produces a sickle causing Christie to panic and skate away from the killer. This is where it becomes comedic because Christie is still hanging on to that damn doll! If the scene had any drama still attached to it, it was ruined for good when the killer is seemingly knocked out cold when Christie hits them with the doll. What was the payoff for all of this crap and unintentional comedy? A kill where we barely get to see anything. This happens in every death scene too. By the end of the film, I was left wondering if April Fool’s Day had more graphic kills than Curtains. For an early 80’s slasher, there wasn’t any excuse for one lame kill after another.

    As far as things that I liked, well, I suppose I liked the old hag mask that the killer wore. I can’t quite place it, but I feel as if the mask reminds me of another movie or television show. Perhaps some episode of Tales From the Crypt where a woman is turned old? I enjoyed looking at the darker side of Hollywood. Eliminating the whole little matter of being killed, some of these women just aren’t having fun and are having to do things they’d regret at a later point if it wasn’t for that whole being dead problem. Truth be told, the best part of the movie is just how laughably bad it is. It caused me to laugh at several points and while it was clearly terrible, it was terrible in such a way that maybe you have a stupid smile on your face at points. I’ll take a movie so bad it’s slightly entertaining over a movie a tad bit better, but there’s zero entertainment value in how bad it is.

    Overall, Curtains is a mess of a movie and one that disappointed me greatly. I realize that not every early 80’s slasher is going to impress me, but I still have expectations. Take 1981’s The Prowler for example. That’s another 80’s slasher that let me down, but you still had that beautiful bastard, Tom Savini, deliver the goods with his make-up work. The kills in this movie made the film feel as if it came out at the end of the decade when the MPAA began really hitting the horror genre hard with it’s forced edits. Unless you’re a completest and have to watch every slasher from the 80’s, I suggest skipping the movie entirely. Go on Amazon and order yourself a copy of it’s far superior and eerie poster.

    Rating: 2.5

  2. Day 14: Scherzo Diabolico (2016)

    Rating: 8.5/10 (high-priority rental)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – How this movie took not one, but two turns that I was not expecting; go into this one as unsullied as possible. (in other words, stop reading this if you haven’t seen the film yet)
    – How the seemingly disparate and unexplained events early on in the film all came together and revealed themselves as planning and practicing for the kidnap; I really was sort of in the dark for the first half of the film, but everything made sense later.
    – The first big reveal, that the school girl he kidnapped, was not just a random object of his obsession, but the daughter of the man whose job he coveted; that reveal of Aram’s master plan was brilliant.
    – Honestly, ^that^ reveal was one of my favorite and most shocking reveals in a movie that I’ve experienced in a long time.
    – The film takes another dramatic, and shocking (for me), turn in the final third to a hardcore revenge flick; it was clear that Aram’s transgressions would catch up to him, but I did not see his downfall unfolding the way it did.
    – I could see this movie having great re-watchability.

    What I didn’t like:
    – I don’t necessarily see this as a negative, but the film does take its time to reveal where it’s going; I was very much in the dark in the first third of the movie. (Again, I don’t necessarily see this as a negative for me, but might frustrate some others)

    • Yes, sir! That’s on the list for this month, along with GREEN ROOM and LIGHTS OUT (though LIGHTS OUT will be towards the end of the month, seeing as the Blu-Ray doesn’t release until 10/25)

  3. Day 14 – Ichabod Crane (2nd part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)

    After hearing Dr. Shock’s review of this on the horror for little monsters episode, I decided to check out the Mr. Toad entry in this since I’d never seen it, and I found it to be pretty good. I’m still partial to the Ichabod Crane story though. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my most favorite Halloween stories, and to this day nothing has captured it as well as the Disney cartoon. No granted it’s a silly musical and there are a lot of measures taken to downplay the horror as to not shock younger viewers, but ultimately the horror comes across. The narration at the end even goes so far to assure you that there was no happy ending. Halloween classic certified 9.5/10

  4. Day 14: Demons (1985)
    Rating: 7.5/10

    This film is directed by Mario Bava’s son, Lamberto Bava. A bunch of people in a movie theater begin turning into demons and there’s no escape. This movie is a blast! There’s good gore, rockin’ 80’s nostalgia, and a little bit of Italian sleaze. The lesson in this film, don’t skip class to go to movies.

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