The Visit

We would doctor, but we need the venom.


I didn't lose my notes. I repressed them.
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Reported on 15th of October, 2015

The forgettable The Visit has literalized that characterization by the loss of my notes. What I remember is an origin story of sorts. Not the film, no, not something that grand. No, it’s the beginning of something new that I can shout at the screen.

The Visit

13 November 2015 @ The Gaumont Rennes


-$0.10 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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This time I have plagiarized from the Rifftrax folks. More than once, because this happens more than once in films, said folks have cried out: ‘Get off the stage!’ ‘You’re not funny!’ to any character giving a speech at a podium. This is especially effective during the interminable political filibustering within Episodes 2 through 3. At least I’m not recycling the Simpsons. I stopped doing that two months ago, when Rifftrax made fun of someone doing that.

My new callout ejaculates more than once during The Visit, which some have likened to Mr. M. Night Shyamalan’s comeback. Critics in this camp can be forgiven, as 2015 is home to the most mediocre films since 1953. Anything merely lousy must be an improvement. 2015’s aggressive averageness is fine by me, as it portends a revolution. If history is any indication, something great is coming. In fifteen years.

Strangely, surprising us with a lack of surprise has been done before. A lot. This has been done a lot. So much so that it's still unsurprising. Maybe they should try it one more time. So I can talk about it some more. Which I would do. Talk about it some more.

In the meantime, I get to yell ‘Get off the stage! You’re not scary!’, something that I found equally comforting doing during the resolutely lousy Crimson Peak. It’s a tough year to be a bloated Hollywood horror film, since the indies are kicking their ass. In my defense, this is something that we as an audience demand of the genre: not just yelling at the screen (de rigueur), but, that’s right, to be scared.

I was not expecting to be scared during The Visit, but I was expecting some measure of silliness, à la After Earth or The Last Airbender. Even The Happening seems now, like all bad relationships, funny in retrospect. On one hand, it is painful that the man who made The Sixth Sense and the underappreciated Unbreakable could fall that far. Sure, we may have been flummoxenraged at the preposterous yet un-unique message – the best way to solve overpopulation is to make more children. But ten years on, we mentally tuck it away as a bit. If you’re not going to be good, give me some funny stories to tell at a party to the next perfect girlfriend.

With The Visit, I was hoping for the equivalent, and thus at least not to be bored. The film is instead, like seemingly all the films of 2015, not quite bland enough to qualify as uninteresting. In this case, a gotcha film whose ending would be surprising in the context that there was no attempt at surprise. Strangely, surprising us with a lack of surprise has been done before. A lot. This has been done a lot. So much so that it’s still unsurprising. Maybe they should try it one more time. So I can talk about it some more. Which I would do. Talk about it some more.

So at some point, bored and not scared, I yelled out, and…

wait a second. Oh Jesus, it’s coming back to me. I forgot about the freezing thing. So the brother character…

oh God, he raps. He raps three times, all the way through.

I didn’t lose my notes. I repressed them.

Why did you have to be bland???? Couldn’t you have be just okay?

Maybe The Visit will be the future pluperfect The Happening, but for the moment, stop telling me she’s really mean to waiters. Let’s contextualize yell one. First, in between raps one and two, Brother relates the story about how he freezes while playing Hockey or something, which seemed too cheap and non-sequitorious to be a set-up. The surprise, again, is that nothing is too cheap. So he briefly pauses between raps two and three to freeze whilst the Grampa is going to kill him.

We’d be forgiven for thinking that the grandiosity of such cliché – of the ‘Doctor, I’m terrified of spiders.’ ‘So why’d you go out of your way to the barn in the middle of the night covered in flies?’ variety – is the problem. Vertigo is built around exactly such a conceit, that our weakness would put us in danger. Like many other classics, that film ruined it for all those that copied the concept, but not the idea. Except Mr. Brian de Palma and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, of course.

No stranger to trope, we might criticize Sister for entering the room with crazy Grandma, all the while carrying her Blair-Witch-o-cam. Oh, sorry, did I mention that this is a found footage film? Yep. One bonus: during the screening you can fantasize, however futilely, this means they die at the end. Better fantasy, that it’s found by the ghost from The Grudge who re-gifts it to the ghost from Ringu and so it sits on shelf in some abandoned ditch over an empty crypt, forever unwatched. Which means you’re not even reading this.

Spooky!

And yes, we’ve all experienced moments of incredulity over the need to document instead of running the hell away. But let’s give the film these many, many, many conceits. All clichés should be challenges, and a better filmmaker could pull them off. At this point, we ask a very simple question: you’re in the room with scary grandma, um, leave. The door’s right there. No, really. She walks into the room with scary grandma, sees scary grandma, and proceeds to stay.

The problem with these tropes is not that they have been done to lazy parody death. No, it’s this: it’s not scary. Characters failing to avoid danger by moving ever so slightly generates no interest or emotion whatsoever. Horror is like the US self-defense laws. To fight back under the law, you have to believe you’re in danger. When the easiest thing to do is leave, you couldn’t get away with this shit in Florida.

And that is how you revive a lazy parody.

Profits!
One thing I remember is how great Ms. Kathryn Hahn is, reminding me what can Mr. Shamaylan can do.
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I wanted so much to ruin it for you, but 1) that’s impossible, and 2) it would take too much energy. This counts as positive, because the brief pleasure I had in writing down my incredulity.
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Total Profits
$1.10
Losses!
The found footage conceit ruins one of her best moments, where she is almost crying, and the camera, depressingly by design, doesn’t get it.
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The way photographs do, my lost notes are replacing this movie in my head, so here’s one more that came back, the imaginary line I gave the police when they finally arrived to save the kids: ‘Sorry we’re late. We had to pick up your mom at the train station.’ Hey, I stole that from the Simpsons!
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Total Losses
$1.00

-$0.10

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