Monday, July 28, 2014

Microreview [film]: The Visitor

Every horror/sci-fi movie of the 70s in a convenient, 100-minute package.

Drafthouse Films is a helluva thing. I lived in Austin when the Alamo Drafthouse was just the coolest theater in town. Since then, the company has expanded to include several theaters in multiple cities, supported the minimalist movie poster explosion by fostering the work of Mondo, and now has its own distribution arm of first-run and cult films. One of those cult films is 1979's oddity The Visitor, which is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

I'm not sure I can explain The Visitor except in terms of the movies it blatantly rips off or cribs whole passages from. You know how in The Omen there's this mystery devil child? Right. The Visitor has that — an 8-year-old girl named Katy. Also, the part about how the devil kid has it in for the mom and keeps trying to innocently kill her? That's here. And in Rosemary's Baby there's a big cabal of people working to support the devil kid and its attendant mission? Yep, got that. And you know how in The Birds there are all these malicious bird attacks? Yep, also. What about the gray-haired, wise old bearded man in Star Wars who hops worlds and knows secrets of things that happened long ago he isn't telling? Check it off the list. Hey, maybe the funhouse-mirror finale from The Lady from Shanghai? That's here. And what about Sam-fuckin'-Peckinpah? Weirdly enough, yeah, he's here, too.

That's right, for some reason this Italian genre knock-off stars the legendary American directors John Huston and Sam Peckinpah, as well as long-established Hollywood heavyweights like Glenn Ford and Shelley Winters, and relative newcomers like Lance Henriksen. It's a helluva cast that never lets on that they realize they're in an epic stinkbomb. The cast and the evident budget investment in The Visitor help it stand out and add a good amount of curiosity value, but on the whole The Visitor fits somewhere square in the middle of cult film badness and horribility. It has a handful of unintentionally laugh-out-loud moments, but not enough to make it a drunken laugh-riot with your friends, and the derivative plot precludes the awesome, nonsensical left turns you often see in obscure cult films. That said, the super-weird "let's decapitate mom, wait I'm being attacked by a truckload of pigeons" finale is worth the price of admission.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 4/10

Bonuses: +1 for the world-class, if decidedly odd, cast; +1 for the head-trip finale

Penalties: -1 for not being weird or awful enough to make a lasting impression

Cult film coefficient: 5/10, equal parts good and bad. Check out an explanation of our microreview scores here.

Posted by — Vance K, cult film aficionado, unapologetic lover of terrible movies, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.