Rated: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: September 11, 2015 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
M. Night Shyamalan wrote the screen play and directed a film that builds tension and danger infiltrated with some humor, but he takes us on a trip too long before dropping the climatic twist.
Two kids Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent to spend a week with their grandparents who they have never seen. The grandparents live on a rural Pennsylvania farm where Mom ( Kathryn Hahn) grew up until she ran away fifteen years before. Mom has not communicated with her parents due to a conflict that has lasted through the fifteen years. But Mom has a chance to take a cruise with her new boyfriend and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) and Nana (Deanna Dunagan) are willing to spend time with their grandchildren. The full reason for the separation is only disclosed late in the film and is far less powerful than we would expect.
The kids film the entire story on a handheld camera which works better here that it has in some films. Olivia and Tyler are making a film with the purpose of exposing the reason for the dysfunction between Mom and her parents. We watch the kids talk on camera as they explore the snow covered rural Pennsylvania farm buildings. There are strange and some dark places to play in and learn about. Crawling under the barn between the supports leads to a chase scene that ends differently that we would expect. Pop Pop has a strange stash in a small out building that stinks. The grandparents constantly act out in strange ways particularly after 9:30 in the evening. But Nana cooks like most grandmothers and the eccentric activities are looked upon as what happens to old people.
We travel through a series of activities by the elderly couple and after a long time the kids experience a growing discomfort.
Shyamalan holds us still wondering what is happening for too long a time. The eventual twist is effective but the build up is either not enough or not presented well enough to justify the long wait. Shyamalan does however put us in a position to make assumptions which may have occurred or not and at times a quick glance is very telling but so fleeting that it is probably missed, those scenes work but they are in a minority.
Tyler tells the entire story in Rap rhythm in a thirty second ending which makes it clear that there is just not enough to satisfy.