Review: Drafthouse Films’ ‘The Visitor’ is Equal Parts Confusing and Crazy

By November 14, 2013
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I had first heard about Drafthouse Films’ acquisition of the 1979 sci fi/horror film The Visitor a handful of months back and immediately took interest. A late ’70s cult film that blends together influences from the likes of Star Wars, Rosemary’s Baby and Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind (just to name a few)? Any like minded genre fan would be nuts to not want in on this “lost treasure.” Alas, I received a screener earlier in the week and I must say, viewing the movie in full was a bit of a task.

Be patient with me as I attempt to break down the movie’s plot for you. If you get confused, don’t worry – I think that’s a part of the intended experience…maybe? The Visitor takes place smack dab in the middle of an intergalactic war between good and bad aliens. The hero aliens are led by Jesus Christ (?) played by none other than the original Django, Franco Nero. After telling the story of an evil child with super powers to a bunch of bald children in heaven (?), an old man by the name of Jerzy (played by John Huston) enters the picture and is sent down to Earth to kidnap the evil little super girl Katy (played by Paige Conner).

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Following me so far? Good…

During all of this, the evil aliens have a plan to get Katy’s mom, Barbara (played by Joanne Nail), pregnant so she can then give birth to another evil super kid who will then destroy all of the human race. Raymond (Lance Henriksen) is Barbara’s lover – but not really. In fact, he’s a pawn in the bad aliens’ plans, led by Dr. Walker (played by Mel Ferrer) to make their plan a reality. It’s not too far into the story when Barbara becomes a wee bit disabled and Detective Jake Durham (played by Glenn Ford) enters the picture and figures out that stupid little Katy may probably be the culprit.

As far as I can tell, that is the basic gist of the film’s story but I had to reference a few different plot synopses online to fully put those thoughts together in somewhat of a cohesive through line. To be honest, it took me two days to get through The Visitor. I seriously got bored through the first half of the film and I shut it off due to my brain literally shutting down due to the barrage of nutty dialog, bad acting, and strangely distracting score. The story made absolutely no sense, yet it was nice to point out all the references and influences from much better films.

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It was during the second half of the film, after my brain was well rested and patience restored, that I began to really see what The Visitor was. Directed by Giulio Paradisi and produced by Ovidio Assonitis (who also partially wrote the script), this film was made as one of those late ’70s cash grabs, banking off of the recent genre classics of the time. (I can do my best and compare these types of films to the likes of the works Asylum is putting out today, but I feel that comparison really doesn’t hold much weight.)

The last half of the film went places I both did and didn’t expect. While the through story I mentioned above following Jerzy and Katy was still there, the movie also featured some out of place scenes that had no real purpose in the overall scheme of things. That didn’t mean I did not enjoy watching Katy beat the crap out of some ice skating thugs or throw her wheelchair-bound mother into a giant aquarium. And the scene with all those mirrors just made me yearn for Bruce Lee to make a cameo, posthumously even. Hell, it wouldn’t have made sense, but neither does most of this movie, so why not?

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I could write 500 more words trying to describe this movie and I’d fail. Maybe that’s what makes The Visitor a unique viewing experience. While I did not love the film, it has been a topic of conversation since sitting through the damn thing. I feel bad for John Huston, Shelly Winters, and even Sam Peckinpah (who had a tiny role in the film) as they are actors who deserve much better than this film. But seeing them throughout the story just adds to the bizarre aural experience that The Visitor is. And what it is exactly is hard to sum up in few words. The Visitor is a weird, batsh*t crazy and confusing film. If you go into the movie (in a theater if possible) knowing this, you may actually enjoy it.

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.