Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 34 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 7; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 2.
Our rating (1-5): 3.5
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
Director M. Night Shyamalan at last has brought out a film that instills fear and trembling in viewers rather than dismay or boredom. Even though I don’t like the “found footage” genre begun by the makers of The Blair Witch Project, the scenes in this film are mostly non-wobbly and in focus. The plot includes an unforseen development that really make the last part of the film a nail biting thriller.
Single mom Paula (Kathryn Hahn), feeling the need to go away with her boyfriend on a 5-day cruise, is sending her 15 year-old daughter and 13 year-old son to visit the grandparents they have never seen. Aspiring filmmaker Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) plans to make a documentary about their grandparents, so she interviews her mom, asking her why she has refused to visit or talk with her parents for 15 years. Mom will not answer, telling her that her grandparents can tell her if they like. Even though she is estranged from them, she says that they are nice people, still serving as volunteers at the local hospital.
Rebecca is glad to go because she hopes good things will happen for her mom on the cruise. Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), who often communicates through raps, is not so happy, because he has learned that there is no cell phone coverage in the area of Pennsylvania where the grandparents live. He claims to have three girls on the string but will not be able to keep in touch with them while he is away.
The grandparents, John “Pop-Pop” (Peter McRobbie) and Doris “Nana” (Deanna Dunagan), meet them at the train station. They seem friendly, but at night tell the kids that they and their guests must go to bed at 9:30 and never venture out of the bedroom. Over the next few days strange things happen. Nana goes momentarily beserk when Becca asks her to be on camera for an interview. When brother and sister play a game of hide-and-seek in the crawl space under the house, Nana scares Tyler by chasing after him on her hands and knees.
At night the kids are freaked out by Nana’s running through the upstairs hallway as she projectile vomits. Tyler sees Pop-Pop in a shed hiding something smelly, and later comes upon him with his mouth over the barrel of a shotgun. Nana asks Becca to clean the large oven of her stove, which involves the girl crawling all the way into it. It is creepy enough the first time, conjuring up the witch’s oven in “Hansel and Gretel, but late in the movie, it is even more suspenseful. By now Becca has given Tyler her second camcorder, so we see even more footage—and it is not at all reassuring, especially when the old couple…well, watch it if you can stand horror films and still sleep well at night. As with other well-developed tales that probe the dark recesses of the human mind and heart, this will certainly make you forget your own troubles for a while!
No discussion questions for this one.