Directed by Giulio Paradisi
Distributed by Drafthouse Films
There are “kitchen sink” movies and there’s The Visitor. It takes almost every popular horror subgenre throughout the 70s—rampaging nature, religious horror, alien invasion, creepy children—and creates a hodgepodge of nonsense that deserves to be experienced at least once.
It’s the story of an alien visitor sent to earth at the behest of a Christ-like deity (played by Franco Nero for maximum incredibleness) to prevent a deceased alien from rising again. There’s a cult of rich businessmen manipulating the events around them for their own nefarious gain. A mother is accidentally shot and paralyzed during her child’s birthday. Bloodthirsty birds terrorize all who oppose the evil. Shelley Winters is a suspicious babysitter/alien agent, and on it goes…
Directed by Giulio Paradisi under one of my all-time favorite pseudonyms (Michael J. Paradise), The Visitor is a lot more competent than some of its newfound ironic fans may wish to admit. It’s nicely shot, complete with stunning imagery, and makes terrific use of its Atlanta locales (courtside basketball games and sprawling mansions). It’s also equipped with an all-star cast of actors that forces the question of how on more than one occasion.
From Glenn Ford to John Huston, there’s a ton of marquee value. And that’s before we talk about Sam Peckinpah’s inexplicable cameo, the aforementioned presences of Nero and Winters, or Lance Henriksen’s reprisal of his Damien: Omen II paradigm.
Unlike the films it aspires to be (namely The Omen), there isn’t a whole lot of suspense or scares in The Visitor. The opening exposition dump makes an earnest attempt to connect the story’s sporadic dots, but it’s the odd flourishes that make it an experience. For example, the extraterrestrial angel travels by airplane like the rest of us. Character fates are left completely up in the air. And we’re never clear on the movies “rules,” since the titular visitor’s powers are largely inconsistent and often seemed timed to coincide with the story’s structure, as opposed to any natural ability.
Still, it’s quite a bit of fun for fans who may wish to dive into the genre’s older, stranger waters. The Visitor comes from famed Italian producer Ovidio G. Assonitis—the man behind countless Italian rip-offs of successful Hollywood fare. I will argue that his Exorcist riff, Beyond the Door is both a better and stranger experience than The Visitor, but maybe we’re talking semantics at that point.
The Visitor arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Drafthouse Films. It’s hardly what you would call reference material, but that’s not what we would expect from it. The transfer looks darn good for a low-budget 70s production, offering a filmic experience of rich blacks, good color saturation and close-up textures. These points offset a surprising about of print damage, but I’m not carping. If you’re looking to grab this movie, Drafhouse has put a fine version on the market. I’m more conflicted about recommending this release to those who have already plunked down the cash for Code Red’s 2010 DVD release. Yes, that’s a standard definition transfer, but if you’re not in the habit of double dipping, it’s a little tougher to recommend this new release.
Audio-wise, The Visitor contains a DTS-HD-MA 2.0 track and it’s about what you would expect. It contains a modest delivery of dialogue and a fine separation against the music.
Extras are limited, but enjoyable. First up is a 9 minute interview with Lance Henriksen, and it’s a delight. He has plenty to say about the filming of The Visitor and who would believe that shooting it was an even crazier experience than watching it? We’ve also got a very telling interview with screenwriter Lou Comici, who was fired upon completing his draft. Rounding out the trio of interviews is a brief chat with cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri. The disc contains trailers for other Drafthouse releases, and includes some fantastic liner notes by Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson—the best supplement in the package for those of you who remember the days when Laserdiscs and DVDs often had them.
For horror fans, saying that a film is very Italian is really just a euphemism for batshit insanity. Maybe The Visitor doesn’t go as far off the charts as some of its peers, but it’s quite a ride all the same. If it sounds like its your bag, then it probably is.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5