All the amazing things we were not expecting from ‘The Visit’

When I first saw the trailer for The Visit, a horror flick about two teens spending the week with gram and gramps, I knew it was going to be big. This was the movie that was going to resurrect M. Night Shyamalan’s career, and it was going to be hilarious and surreal and terrifying and everything we ever wanted from a horror comedy. And that’s precisely what it is.

If you haven’t read up on the buzz surrounding The Visit, here’s what you need to know. The film follows two siblings, Becca and Tyler, who are sent to their grandparents’ house for the week. It’s an especially bizarre situation, since the last time the kids’ mom (the endlessly wonderful Kathryn Hahn) saw her parents was 15 years ago, due to an epic fight to end all fights.

At first all goes well — Nana and Pop Pop delight Becca and Tyler with their quirky “old people” behavior. But then strange things start happening, because of course they do. After their strict “bedtime” of 9:30pm, Becca spots Nana running through the hallways at night with her hands clasped behind her back. Tyler runs into Pop Pop with a gun barrel in his mouth, and he explains by telling Tyler, “I was just cleaning it. I was just cleaning it.” Bottom line? Something is definitely NOT right.

There are just so many things about The Visit that deserve infinite praise — its originality, its cleverness, its seamless dialogue, and much more. Here are some reasons why The Visit not only crushed everyone’s expectations, but exceeded them:

1. Becca and Tyler are super lovable —you will not want anything bad to happen to them

It’s hard to create a three-dimensional character with feelings and the ability to joke and cry in a horror movie. Probably because the premise of most horror movies is, uh, horror — not so much character development. But Shyamalan manages to give us smart, precocious, and believable leads, and you will fall in love with them and pray to the movie gods their fate isn’t a grim one.

2. The Visit understands our discomforts

The Visit prods at those innate fears we had of the elderly as kids. Our grandparents sometimes seemed alien to us, with their unfamiliar bodies doing unfamiliar things — like requiring adult diapers and developing dementia. Shyamalan uses this discomfort as justification when Nana and Pop Pop start freaking everyone out. “Guys, they’re old!” Becca and Tyler’s mom tells them when they explain Gram has been chasing them under the house and nakedly clawing at the wall at night.

3. You can tell how much fun Shyamalan had writing this script

The Visit is filled with glorious gems — everything from Tyler replacing cuss words with pop singers (“Katy Perry!” “Shakira!” “Sarah McLachlan!”) to Nana hollering “YAHTZEE!” at the camera with a mouth full of powdery cookies. Shyamalan doesn’t take himself so very seriously with this project, and that definitely works in his favor. You’ll be laughing just as much as you will be hiding your face in your palms.

4. But the movie is still very, very scary

Since The Visit is a “found footage” movie, you experience everything through Becca and Tyler’s perspective. You jump when Nana pops out of nowhere with a knife. You follow Tyler to the shed where Pop Pop is most definitely hiding something. And you creep into the basement along with Becca and make a discovery too horrible for words. Will you feel your heart plummet into your large intestines? Um, most def.

5. M. Night Shyamalan took a crazy simple concept, and turned it into 94 minutes of scary fun

Most of us have visited our relatives before as kids, some without the guidance and protection of our parents — and you have to admit, the displacement was probably unsettling. You had to eat their food, follow their rules, sleep in their not-as-comfy-as-your-bed beds. But never in a million years did you think you would be in mortal danger.

M. Night Shyamalan takes an ordinary human tradition and twists it beyond recognition. It’s playful. It’s dark. It’s creative. And it will probably be your favorite horror movie this year.

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(Image via Blinding Edge Production)