Cult Cinema: The Visitor

Andrew reviews the bizarre cult favorite The Visitor.

Is there a film out there in the world weirder than Menahem Golan's 1980 gonzo musical freak out The Apple.  To my amazement, the answer is yes and stranger still, it has quite the cast starring in it!  Enter Italian director Giulio Paradisi (credited as Michael J. Paradise) and his perversely bizarre 1979 science fiction horror flick The Visitor

Hey pal!!! Are you Obi-Wan?

Recently acquired and released by Drafthouse Films in 2013, the film is a near incoherent head trip that loosely remakes The Bad Seed with imitation Alejandro Jodorowsky and just so happens to star Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, John Huston, Sam Peckinpah, Shelly Winters, Franco Nero and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  What makes this bona fide chunk of celluloid madness so intriguing to watch is, like Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, you wonder how such a solid cast was assembled for something that made little to no logical sense to the actors.  The curious thing about the film's eclectic cast is despite how much onscreen footage there is, no one really seems to be there or know what's going on.  Years later Henriksen would state in an interview included on the Drafthouse blu-ray he and his friends went to a screening and couldn't help but laugh up the lunacy that unspooled.  The plot goes something like this: space Satan fights space God with an armada of birds, space God draws Close Encounters of the Third Kind lights from the sky, a demon child blows up basketballs and knocks over ice skaters in a rink, Sam Peckinpah plays a gynecologist, Franco Nero is a bright blond space Christ, and a plush toy repeats over and over 'I'm a pretty bird'.

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Yes, I am Jesus. And yes, I did build
your hot rod. 
Of course I've just barely scratched the tip of the iceberg that awaits inside this truly one of a kind, Captain Insano psychedelic mishmash of American  horror movies, most obviously The Birds, Jaws, The Omen, The Fury, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and maybe even a dash of Exorcist II: The Heretic.  Not even John Boorman or Claudio Fragasso could make a movie this goddamn weird if they tried really hard.  John Huston seems to be sleepwalking through the film and Lance Henriksen seems to be looking for a way out of the picture at every turn.  Cinematography is about what you would expect from a low budget Italian production from the late 1970s although the opening vistas of two cloaked figures in a desert against a surreal lava lamp sky is a wonderfully trippy image Nobuhiko Obayashi would be proud of.  The soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi is so gleefully overwrought it becomes an art form unto itself.  Much like The Apple, the film is a surreal take on religion and the Bible, telling the story of Adam and Eve in the aforementioned film and more or less portraying God vs Satan in The Visitor...I think.  Trying to follow this science fiction horror biblical allegory hybrid quickly becomes futile and it's best to just sit back and let the truly really very oddball images wash over you.  This isn't the sort of experience you can come away from saying you understood but in a way that kind of places it into a cannon of weird other surrealist science fiction thrillers aspire to be.  

This means....something.
I just don't know what. 
The Visitor might actually be the weirdest film I have ever seen which is saying a lot considering just how many oddball head scratchers I've consistently subjected myself to.  From beginning to end, you are thrust into another dimension of thought which resembles a colorful visual extravaganza of super-impositions, blue screen matting and practical effects of birds being blasted through pane glass windows.  Truly a product of 1970s experimental filmmaking with a lot of ambition but little understanding of how to convey all the grandiose ideas to an audience, The Visitor is not a good movie objectively speaking.   Unlike Jodorowsky whose avant garde provocations seems to have a sense of purpose as well as cohesion you could follow, The Visitor is kind of a smorgasbord which doesn't really work but certainly won't bore you as it proceeds to vex and confound you.  Yes it's technically inept and there's no sense of direction to it with equally confused, overqualified cast members who are as lost as we.  But, for those with a penchant for the far outer limits of cinema which touch the ends of space and reality itself, this recently unearthed cult classic will not disappoint your love of the so damn weird. 


- Andrew Kotwicki