This review contains some spoilers. I invisotexted the best one, but some had to be made known in order to criticize. Plus, the film’s like older than dirt. I should know because I’m older than dirt.
The Visitor is a 1978 Italian / American co-production from director Giulio Paradisi (aka Michael J. Paradise) and producer Ovidio Assonitis that is being re-released uncut theatrically now for the first time by Drafthouse Films. It would have been better left cut up in a hole somewhere 35 years ago. It’s a sorry mash up of ripoffs cobbled together Frankenstein style (surprised there wasn’t some asshole running around Atlanta with a flat head and neck bolts) to form a tedious, incoherent mess of a film that can’t come close to the asinine biblical symbology and science fiction heights to which it aspires. It’s consistently inconsistent in its tone, laughably directed (aside from an awesome street crash), populated with several WTF? moments and filled with either listless or downright idiotic characters, the most egregious of which, I’m sorry to say, is John Huston.
The breakdown is this: long ago, an evil interstellar criminal named Sateen (like Satan, get it?) descended upon Earth. He was pursued by Commander Ya-vey (like Yahweh, get it?), whose army of attack birds finally tracked Sateen to Earth, and killed him after he transformed into an Eagle, but not before killing most of them. The thing is though, Sateen had banged chicks, to carry his evil down through the generations via his progeny, and Ya-vey’s descendants pursued them down through the ages. This is all relayed by Hippie Jesus, so you just have to sort of take it on faith.
Anyway the only one left from Sateen’s line capable of producing an heir to his evil empire is Barbara Collins (Joanna Nail), who has already spawned an evil little eight-year-old thing named Katy. Katy’s best friend is a hawk (an Atlanta Hawk…) that likes to fly around and kill things…namely people. The story finds Barbara dating the rich Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen, pre-cragginess), who’s secretly part of a cabal of men set to orchestrate the control of Barbar’s offspring a to produce a male heir, presumably with whom Katy can later mate to produce some sort of pure blood (i.e. inbred) offspring or something. The only problem is, Barbara knows there’s something “bad” about Katy and doesn’t want any more children, and refuses to marry Raymond. The Visitor (aka God, aka John Huston) arrives in town to stop Katy’s evil in a mini little war whose collateral damage is Det. Jake Durham (Glenn Ford), some kids ice skating and repeatedly, Barbara…oh, and a basketball.
To further try to describe the plot is an exercise in diminishing returns, because it’s a bunch of half-baked ideas and action sequences strung together. Suffice it to say that Katy does some evil shit, mostly to her mother, and John Huston shows up on the scene (and on a rooftop with bald background dancers) to try to be of assistance. Thing is, for someone who’s concerned with trying to stop Katy’s evil and that of the cabal, he flat out sucks. Katy shoots and paralyzes Barbara with a gun she gets in a present for her birthday (Nail’s What. The. Fuck. expression during this is priceless), even though the Visitor, codenamed Jerzy Colsowicz FYI, is there. Barbara also gets abducted by the cabal and forcefully impregnated, and must seek the help of her ex-husband, Dr. Sam Collins (Sam Peckinpah, apparently keeping his SAG card current) for an abortion, even though he apparently couldn’t give a shit about Katy whatsoever.
There’s another WTF? sequence with Katy and some boys getting rowdy on a skating rink. Really though, there was a segment where Jerzy, presumably to help the boys in the ice rink, climbs down the longest goddamned broken escalator (Stairway to Heaven perhaps?) in existence to be of exactly zero help to the boys. It’s comical. He’s long dead but I was still embarrassed for John Huston to be in this movie. And when Katy and Jerzy finally throw down, it’s a lame-assed sequence in an abandoned building and hall of mirrors. The climax involves another shit kicking of Barbara by Katy and Raymond, who disappeared for half the movie, only to Invisotext on: return to get switchbladed by a bird, I shit you not. Again, just pricelessly stupid. Invisotext off: You might feel for Barbara if she wasn’t so patently ignorant of all the shit going on around her. She’s little more than a MacGuffin to be repeatedly abused throughout the film.
Whether it’s through bad writing or bad execution or both, The Visitor really achieves next to nothing for which it sets out, namely being a fusion of far better fare to which it’s invariably compared: The Omen, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Rosemary’s Baby, etc. To wit: why is Jerzy so impotent for much of the movie? Why can’t his bird pals come immediately to handle business? He already knows everything evil that’s going on with Katy and the cabal. But he sits on his ass for much of the movie, putting in cameo appearances and playing games (“I’m the baby sitter from the agency!”). Meanwhile, Barbara is crippled, mutilated and brutalized. If she knew just how badly Jerzy allowed her to get fucked over and flat out failed her, she’d be more than justified in telling him to fuck right off back into space. Also, why isn’t the cabal more direct? What kind of for shit bad guys are these? Why, if they’re willing to abduct and impregnate Barbara – in a roadside 30-minute operation by the way – do they not follow through and just hold her until the baby is born? It’s not like she’s going to be running off anywhere. Why aren’t they looking out more for Katy? She has powers already, you’d figure that she’d be their #1 priority.
From a production standpoint, it’s amazing that it looks like Paradise and Assonitis were able to fill a basketball arena and actually film inside the confines of the game, with players being actors, all for some way out of left field climactic moment that’s never referenced again and has no significance other than to show that Katy ain’t a basketball fan. Amazing. It’s just exercises in stupidity that make this film a slog to get through. The only enjoyment I really got were the pretty good sequence with the hawk attacking someone while driving and the ensuing crash. That and seeing an actual friggin’ Ollie’s Trolley (in the background of a driving scene) for the first time in 30 years. Great fries.
There’s probably other stupid shit to get to in this movie, but really, that’s more than enough. See it if you want. It opened in Austin, LA and several other cities on 11/1 and opens Friday, 11/8 in New York at the IFC Center. The full release schedule is here:
Out of a Possible 5 Stars