Saying that The Visitor is about a trans-dimensional battle between good and evil is barely coming close to explaining it. You’d be leaving out juicy moments like when Kareem Abdul Jabbar dunks an exploding basketball while team owner Lance Henriksen looks on. Or the fact that Sam Peckinpah plays a doctor. And there’s a wicked scene of ice skating brutality. The hype is true, folks. The Visitor is a blizzard of cinematic madness. Oh, I forgot to mention that a little girl hurls her paraplegic mother through a giant fish tank. That’s a good bit too.
The Visitor was directed by Giulio Paradisi and produced by Ovidio Assonitis, who was a hack, but a talented hack. He was known for his flagrant facsimiles like the 1977 Jaws rip-off Tentacles. In the case of The Visitor, Assonitis (which I can’t help but pronounce in my head “ass on tits”) rips from a hefty lineup of popular movies, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Birds, and Rosemary’s Baby. It never feels like a rip-off, however. For all of its influences, The Visitor feels remarkably fresh and exciting over 30 years later.
The cast is absolutely bonkers and looking at it, it’s obvious that Assonitis had some kind of pull in Hollywood. Or a lot of people owed him money. Acclaimed director John Huston stars as Jerzy, an intergalactic warrior who’s pursuing a descendant of an evil alien named Sateen. This descendent is a little girl named Katy, who is quickly developing supernatural powers. She’s also wicked good at ice skating and has a pet hawk that’s very possessive of her. Kinda like how Damien had those dogs, Katy has a hawk. Katy’s mom is targeted by a group of shady old men who wish to get her pregnant so she can have an evil baby boy. That’s the gist of the plot, I think.
Glenn Ford also stars as a detective. Lance Henriksen plays Katy’s dad and the owner of an Atlanta basketball team. Shelley Winters (Night of the Hunter) plays Katy’s new nanny, who is on to her nefarious little game. Franco Nero is space Jesus. And Sam Peckinpah plays a doctor, but his lines are dubbed probably because he was shitfaced during filming. Seriously, this cast is a enigmatic smorgasbord of talent.
Watching The Visitor may seem like sitting through a collection of random scenes, but it really is a cohesive film. For all of its insanity and exploding basketballs, there’s an engaging story beneath the surface. But once you think you have it figured out, the film jets in a completely different direction. It’s really tough to explain the actual plot, but there are so many consistently entertaining, batshit crazy scenes that whether you’re following along or not, it’s a blast. One particularly amazing scene is the aforementioned ice skating rumble. Katy is doing her thing on the ice when all of a sudden a bunch of teenage boys start messing with her. So she starts absolutely wrecking shit in a volley of telepathic beauty. If you can’t enjoy that scene you may want to check your pulse.
Drafthouse Films has salvaged The Visitor from obscurity and they’re releasing it in theaters this month. This is one to see on the big screen, for sure.