• DAVID STEPHENS

THE VISITOR (OCTOBER 3RD)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

One of the nice things about the “31 Days of Halloween” challenge is the way it makes you re-evaluate your home DVD/Blu-Ray collection. And for most of us genre fans that invariably means finding a “hidden treasure”. More often than not, it’s a still-sealed copy of a film that you’ve been meaning to watch for ages, and when you find it you feel like beating yourself up for not making the effort earlier. In this case for me, it was a still-cellophane-wrapped copy of “The Visitor”. Even more annoyingly, it was another handsome package and remastered release from ‘dem nice people at Arrow Video. So this was the prime choice for me as a “31 Days” film…

I was well aware of the reputation of this late 1970’s Italian/US production from social media posts and conversations with other horror fans. “The Visitor” is basically famous for two things; 1) having an amazing cast & 2) being absolutely bonkers with a plot that defies description. The cast includes such cinematic heavyweights as John Huston, Glenn Ford, Shelly Winters, Sam Peckinpah, Mel Ferrer, and Lance Henriksen.

It opens on a couldn’t-be-more-70’s-sci-fi landscape with a be-cloaked Obi-Wan figure (John Huston) looking out across a desert and spying a dark figure coming towards him. Against a rising sun and a lava-lamp background, the figure reveals itself to be a young girl. It then cuts to a blatantly Christ-like character (an uncredited Franco Nero) telling a story to a gaggle of bald-headed space-kids. Apparently an evil mutant (pronounced “moo-tarnt” by Nero) space-villain called Zatine, space-escaped from space-custody and went to Earth. He was defeated by galactic good-guy Yaveth, but not before seeding his genes in the human race to cause havoc. His ancestors are monitored by the descendants of Yaveth, who try to prevent them from harming others. {Three things to note here; 1) I’m NOT making this up! 2) The obvious clumsy religious parallels. 3) You won’t see any of this exciting stuff visualised. Nero just speaks about it. Too expensive to film.}

Meanwhile the opening vision leads Jerzy Colsowicz (Huston … yes that IS the character’s name) to Earth, becoming the “Visitor” of the title. He’s looking for Katie Collins (Paige Conner), an 8-year old that seems to be the latest ascendant to have inherited Zatine’s powers. She first appears at a basketball game with her mother and her lover (Raymond played by Henriksen). Katie affects the result by making the basketball explode (NOBODY FINDS THIS UNUSUAL!!), and is shown to be a dangerously powered and temperamental brat on par with Damien Thorn. The Visitor must confront her, before her wish for siblings comes true and causes further imbalance.

“Visitor” is one of those films that you really owe yourself to see at least once … just so you can convince yourself that it really does exist and … yes … it is that damn screwball! Basically what we have here is “The Omen” … but if it had been scripted by L. Ron Hubbard, who stuffed a shit-ton of scientology-type mythos into it. There are also obvious comparisons to be made with “Star Wars”, “Carrie” and “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind”. It WAS the 70’s! It takes typical then-current sci-fi imagery (with the requisite bad blue-screen effects) and mulches them up with a spawn-of-Satan/evil-child plot. But that probably credits the storyline with too much sense…

Mostly it’s a glorious collection of did-they-really-just-say-that?! lines. Dialogue like; “We’re always talking about talking about talking … but we never talk”, or “How come you never explode when we make love?” The non-PC prize though comes with this jaw-dropping clunker between a wheel-chair bound character and her partner; “You don’t think he’s a child-molester?”, “Aren’t you a cripple-molester?”, “Well I would be if you let me…”!! A lot of this possibly comes from dialogue translation from Italian to English, but even so…

There are also some brilliantly inappropriate and odd sequences, such as; Katie suddenly F-Bombing a cop and calling him a pervert, the uber-weird fight scene on the ice-rink, and the attempts to turn a Hawk (the Corgi of the bird-of-prey world) into a threatening “weapon” like the ravens from “Omen II”, but more fluffy and cute. The soundtrack is totally OTT as well, often seguing into dramatic “Duh-Dun-Dun” interludes for no apparent reason, along with unnecessary zooms and close-ups. Huston (often reciting the script as if he can’t quite believe the words he’s uttering) and the rest of the cast are good value, especially for the amount of scenery that they consume as the story progresses.

As mentioned the plot makes little sense, and several characters and major plot-points just vanish or totally change for no good reason. But to be honest that’s all part of its wacky charm. It’s a real genre oddity to be sure, but if you’re curious about its reputation and the sheer 70’s trippy sci-fi angle it takes, it’s well worth experiencing. The horror elements are limited to some “Omen”-esque incidents and some pretty creepy/cruel moments (especially towards the end), but the sheer (often baffling) moments of weird nonsense makes it strangely compelling (if not always for the right reasons). The way that blatantly supernatural events and life-changing moments are matter-of-factly shrugged off is wonderfully ludicrous as well.

Not to everyone’s taste, but most people find it jaw-dropping and/or entertaining for one reason or another … myself now being part of that privileged group. Also worth mentioning are some of the interviews that Arrow Video have added in their package, with a brutally honest one from Lance Henriksen (“I had no idea what was going on…”). Totally worth catching for a rare oddball treat and a great addition to the 31 days challenge.

#31daysofhalloween

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