Are you ready for a movie that's part science fiction, part horror, and all crazy? Then you're in luck, because The Visitor is now on Blu-Ray.
Some movies take a while to let their freak flag fly, but The Visitor is not one of those movies. It opens with a barren landscape above which a strange-colored sky roils with clouds. Then John Huston shows up, looking a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi, and stares pensively off into the distance while another figure, robed in black, approaches. Then there's a snowstorm. Then we see that the black-robed figure is a little blonde girl. Then we go to some sort of room in a fancy house where a gentleman I can only describe as Outer Space Jesus (Franco Nero) tells a bunch of bald kids who look like mini-Hare Krishnas about some evil sorcerer type dude who once knocked up a bunch of Earth women and made them capable of producing children with immense powers for good or evil. Then John Huston shows up again and says he's found one of those kids. Said kid is Katy Collins, whose mom Barbara (Joanne Nail) is dating basketball team owner Raymond (Lance Henriksen all young and baby-faced), and Katy's first demonstration of her powers is to make a basketball explode.
And all this is in the movie's first ten minutes, folks.
The Visitor doesn't sustain this pitch of craziness for its entirety, which is probably a good thing as that could get exhausting. But suffice to say that it has plenty of weirdness to keep you entertained. It says something about the film that its plot — shadowy cabal wants more kids with Katy's power to use for evil purposes while forces of good want to stop the cabal and save Katy — is the most mundane thing about it.
No, what makes The Visitor twenty pounds of nutty in a ten-pound bag are all the incidental moments along the way. These include but are not limited to: the aforementioned exploding basketball scene, telekinetically induced mayhem at an ice skating rink, the scene when Katy's mom is shot in the spine at Katy's birthday party, more scenes of breaking glass and mirrors than you can shake a stick at, delightfully hideous 1970s fashions and architecture, John Huston conducting a light show, bird attacks, not one but two utterly pointless scenes of Katy doing gymnastics, a bizarre murder attempt using piano wire and a wheelchair stair lift, a mode of transportation that might be a truck or might be a spaceship, and a score that at times sounds like the theme from Shaft crossed with "Thus Spake Zarathustra." You'll spend much of the movie scratching your head and saying, "Wait, what?"
To their credit, the somewhat bizarre cast brings the fun as much as they're able to. Huston is surprisingly dignified and never condescends to the ridiculous material. Henriksen doesn't have a whole lot to do, but it's always fun seeing him on screen. Joanne Nail is not the least bit convincing as a paraplegic once she's wheelchair-bound — she's at her best in the movie's last third when the craziness gets to her and she's in hysterics most of the time. Paige Conner as Katy is fairly good when she's being a smug menace but less so when she goes into "kid who cusses so we know she's evil" mode. Glenn Ford shows up to be cannon fodder. Utterly wasted are Shelley Winters as a housekeeper who does almost nothing except sing "Shortnin' Bread" and a dubbed Sam Peckinpah as a doctor. I still don't know what Franco Nero is doing in the film other than to provide exposition, but his scenes greatly add to the overall fever-dream feel of the movie.
It's not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is entertaining and very "different." Watch it next time you need some surreal shit in your mind.
Alamo Drafthouse has put together a fine Blu-Ray of the film. Bonuses include a theatrical trailer and interviews with Henriksen, co-writer Lou Comici, and cinematographer Ennio Guarieri.