The Visitor

Studio: Drafthouse Films
Directed by Michael J. Paradise

Nov 08, 2013 Web Exclusive
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In the 1970s and 1980s, part of the Italian film industry had cornered the market on cheap rip-offs of Hollywood blockbusters. Star Wars gave us Starcrash; Jaws begat Great White; Rambo spawned the Strike Commando series; and Dawn of the Dead led to Lucio Fulci’s schlock masterpiece, Zombie Flesh Eaters. Director Michael J. Paradise—Giulio Paradisi, under a pseudonym—was tasked with crafting a convincing knock-off of Close Enounters. Or maybe it was The Omen? Or Rosemary’s Baby? At some point, the producers must have decided it best to mash together all three, and in 1979, The Visitor was born.

After a brief—but totally far-out—psychic battle between a wizard and a little girl in outer space, The Visitor dives straight into one of the most top-heavy expository monologues this side of Lynch’s Dune. A long time ago, a battle went down between the evil Sateen and the forces of Heaven, with the fate of the cosmos in the balance. Satan—errr, Sateen—was defeated, but his bloodline is still alive in Katie Collins, a wicked eight-year-old with devil-powers living in Atlanta. Sateen’s cult taps a wealthy basketball team owner (a young Lance Henriksen) with marrying the girl’s mother, so to ensure she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a demonic brother for her daughter to mate with.

Still following? The film only gets stranger once the wizard from the film’s beginning (played by Golden-era Hollywood director John Huston) returns with an army of bald men in matching tracksuits, and attempts to throw a wrench in Sateen’s apocalyptic plans.

Did we mention how many scenes involve characters being attacked by birds?

The Visitor is as bonkers as they come. The film boasts as many twists and turns as five similar movies, and hardly one of them makes a lick of sense. It’s baffling, nonsensical, but thoroughly fun, with a gamut of over-the-top, psychedelic special effects, hilariously ham-fisted ‘70s musical cues, and a bizarre cast (which includes Shelley Winters, Sam Peckinpah, Glenn Ford, and Mel Ferrer; Franco Nero plays the hippie-Christ figure.) It’s far from the cerebral fare it was meant to be, but for fans of foreign knock-offs and impressively weird b-movies, The Visitor is a must-see.

(Drafthouse Films will re-release The Visitor theatrically in November.)

Author rating: 6/10

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