10 Questions Left Unanswered By M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit

By  · Published on September 11th, 2015

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Whether you think The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie in years or just another disappointment from one of the most promising filmmakers of our time, we can all agree that it’s far from perfect. While Shyamalan does do a decent job wrapping things up, in the end there remain a number of things that still don’t make sense. Below is a list of these unanswered questions.

Obviously, there will be SPOILERS regarding the plot and ending of the movie below.

1. Why were the kids kept from meeting their grandparents for so long?

At the beginning of the movie we’re meant to believe the estrangement between the mom (Kathryn Hahn) and her parents was so terrible that both sides held a grudge for a long time. It wasn’t until her husband, the guy who caused all the drama in the first place, left them that she started thinking about opening some line of communication, at least for her kids’ sake. But when we hear about the incident, it doesn’t sound so bad that she should keep Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) from meeting their grandparents for 15 years even if she never wanted to see them herself. Especially if those grandparents made an effort to reach out for forgiveness and a rekindled relationship all that time. Plus the kids must have been curious. This isn’t a plot hole by any means but it’s a frustratingly neat yet vague set up for a world and character that are hard to believe exist outside of the confines of this situational horror-comedy.

2. How did they avoid seeing what their grandparents look like?

Sure, Mom wouldn’t have any photos around, but these kids are very internet savvy, and at least Becca is very intelligent and inquisitive. Plus, she wants to be a documentarian, so she should have done some research on her Nana and Pop Pop. Apparently they had enough of an online presence that the mom found them in a Google search. This can be explained away with a matter of plot convenience, that the kids just didn’t bother, and that’s all there is to it. Again, more frustratingly too perfect for the plot than plot hole.

3. How did fake Nana and Pop Pop know the kids didn’t know what their grandparents looked like?

Maybe the real Nana and Pop Pop mentioned that their grandkids didn’t even know what they looked like while telling every patient at Meadow Shade about their exciting week ahead involving a visit from their estranged daughter’s children. But that’s a lot of detail to impart. I imagine the fakes (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) just hoping it was the case that the kids didn’t have a picture to go by or else they’d just have to run away after being immediately seen to be frauds. Sadly, most questions to have about anything the couple were thinking can be shrugged off as being that they were crazy.

4. Why wasn’t anyone looking for the two missing criminally ill mental patients?

Here’s the big question. Fake Nana and Pop Pop received treatment at Meadow Shade, and given that the woman murdered her own children we can assume she wasn’t out-patient. He likely was a resident, too. So they escaped, which would be the drama referred to by the first friend who stops by. Escaped mental patients tend to be more than drama, though, and combined with the sudden absence of a couple who regularly volunteered with those patients might bring extra suspicion about their whereabouts and what they’ve done.

5. Why would those escaped mental patients go out where they could be spotted?

Fake Nana and Pop Pop go for daily walks out and about. Fake Pop Pop takes the kids into town, right by the hospital he’s escaped from even. He attacks a random man on the street. You’d think he’d be concerned about being caught. Or maybe they just know that this hospital is lazy and wouldn’t even be looking for them or get authorities involved or anything. Also, of course, they’re crazy.

6. Why does the grandparents’ house have an ethernet outlet and available internet?

There’s some address of how the kids’ phones don’t get any service and there’s no wifi, and the old folks living in the old farmhouse don’t really know what the internet is all about. Yet the kids are able to find an outlet to plug in an ethernet cable and have it be live with internet so that they can Skype with Mom. We can assume that maybe the real Nana and Pop Pop did pay for and use the internet, but why should we have to assume that? Also, did the cable extend enough for them to bring the laptop over to the window for the big twist reveal? Sadly I wasn’t pay enough attention to the props right then.

7. Why do the kids keep filming while being chased through a cramped space underneath the house?

It’s the same old question asked of just about any characters in a found-footage horror movie in control of the mise-en-scene. But this time it’s not just a matter of logic, as in why wouldn’t you stop pointing the camera forward and maintaining focus. It also just seems like that would be difficult to do while crawling about underneath a house. On a related note and just for curiosity, is it common for there to be so much empty crawl space under a house that also has a large basement?

8. Why does the old lady film herself trying to get in to murder the kids?

One night, fake Nana finds Tyler’s hidden camera meant to document her activity and she brings it along with her as she grabs a knife and goes upstairs to presumably stab them. Did she just want them to see her making a threat when they watched the footage the next day? Why would she want to give them any reason to suspect her of being anything but a sweet old grandma with some issues but nothing too dangerous? Did she really mean to stab them then? Was she simply having an episode that involved her doing things that conveniently worked for the movie viewer’s benefit? Was she just insane enough to want to document herself murdering the kids? Maybe she also had filmed herself drowning her own children.

9. Why would the still-not-yet-found-out couple hang a woman from a tree right outside the house?

Unless the fake grandparents were really trying to be discovered as fake, which would be strange given the measures made to not be discovered fake (oven cleaner on the laptop camera to keep Mom from seeing them, for instance), why would they display the dead body of their latest murder victim so anyone, not even just the kids but another person who might drive up to the house, could see? They’d surely kill her, no doubt, for being nosy or more likely for recognizing them as escaped mental patients and probably asking about the real residents of the house. But not likely so elaborately and visibly as hanging her from a tree. And they’d hide that body just as they did the grandparents’. Oh yeah, they’re crazy, though. I guess never mind.

10. Why would Becca structure a documentary intended to be about her serious family drama and a traumatic experience so that it plays like a silly horror movie?

Because she saw how much attention and success Catfish got, that’s why. Seriously, the plot of The Visit is just Catfish with grandparents, and what happens next is Becca gets her own series on MTV (so does Tyler, but that’s a competition show to find the best 13-year-old white rappers) where she helps others find out if they’re long lost family members are who they say they are.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.