The Visit (2015) Parent Review

Unfortunately, this film struggles to deliver the fear factor that has been seen in other productions write and/or directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Overall C-

For two teenaged children (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), a visit to Grandma’s house turns out to be more dangerous than it did for Little Red Riding Hood, when it becomes apparent that the elderly woman and her husband (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) are not the sweet little old couple they first appear to be.

Violence C
Sexual Content C
Profanity D+
Substance Use B+

The Visit (2015) is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language.

Movie Review

It’s been a few years since M. Night Shyamalan has attempted to spook audiences. With The Visit the director takes some pages from the classic children’s story Hansel and Gretel and adds a dash of Little Red Riding Hood to create a film that places two kids into grandma and grandpa’s strange abode.

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Teenage Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are frequently assuring their mother (Kathryn Hahn) that all will be fine if she takes some time away from them to go on a cruise with her boyfriend. Mom is still nervous about the arrangement of leaving her children with her parents, from whom she’s been estranged for the past fifteen years. At the same time Becca, who, like her brother, has never met her grandparents, is anxious to have an adventure and try out her hand at filming the experience as a documentary.

Boarding the train they wave goodbye and hours later are in the heartfelt embrace of the people they refer to as Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). Arriving at the warm farmhouse, their seven-day visit begins with fresh baked goods coming from an enormous oven and lots of fun distractions. However, it should be no surprise to those familiar with Shyamalan’s work that strange things will begin to happen.

The kids are advised to go to bed at 9:30 and stay in their room. But when peculiar noises begin to keep them up at night they venture out to see what’s happening. Peering down the steps Becca is startled to see her grandmother rapidly pacing back and forth and then suddenly vomiting. Another night Tyler cracks open the bedroom door and finds a naked Nana (of which we share a rear view) scraping at the wall. Grandpa also has issues. His frequent visits to an old shed trigger Tyler’s curiosity and end up sending the boy’s germ phobia into overdrive.

When questioned individually Pop Pop explains his wife is struggling with symptoms of dementia and that the kids should not be alarmed. In similar manner, Nana talks to them about Pop Pop’s incontinence issues and how he is embarrassed by the problem. The discussions help Becca to settle into the week, however Tyler is still agitated by their behavior, which seems to become more extreme with each passing day.

The casting of these young protagonists may imply this film is suitable for similar aged audiences. Parents will want to be cautious with this assumption. These kids will find themselves in a serious situation that, while not often explicitly violent, may be bothersome for many—especially for young viewers with family members experiencing mental illness. A couple of scenes of abuse and images of dead corpses are brief but disturbing, as is a scene where a germ-sensitivity is exasperated by having the sufferer’s face maliciously covered in fecal matter. There are also some profanities and brief sexual banter.

Unfortunately this film also struggles to deliver the fear factor hoped for by the writer of the amazingly suspenseful The Sixth Sense. Instead, the bulk of this screenplay meanders at a slow pace until we reach the final concluding moments. Looking back we recognize the scare is dependent on audiences buying into many assumptions and coincidences that don’t hold up well during after-movie discussions.

The production does deliver some jump moments and even tries to convey a moral message as a take away from Grandma’s house. But with the script moving across the line that separates scaring children versus abusing them, The Visit becomes a destination you will likely want to pass by.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Benjamin Kanes. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release September 11, 2015. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Visit (2015) here.

The Visit (2015) Parents Guide

What things about this script make the story appear credible? What things seem implausible? How do these elements make the movie feel either more or less believable?

Both Nana and Pop Pop are behaving strangely. Each takes time to explain to their grandchildren what the other is suffering from. The conditions mentioned are actually real, and are often forms or symptoms of dementia. Learn more about sundowning and incontinence.

How have past disappointments affected the relationships of this family? How have they impacted the individuals? Which of the characters hope that a reunion will repair some of the damage. What lessons might they learn from their past problems? How easy do you think it is to heal from this kind of trauma?