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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


John Huston (left) squares off against demonic child Paige Conner (right) in The Visitor.
Credit: Drafthouse Films.

1979 (re-released 2013), 108 minutes
Rated R

Review by Joshua Handler

I've got to give it to Drafthouse Films - they're one gutsy distributor, as they've released two of this year's most daring films: Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing and now The Visitor, a rediscovered 1979 gem that stars (among others) John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Sam Peckinpah, Franco Nero, and Shelley Winters.  I've never quite seen anything like The Visitor and for my money, this is one of the best films you'll get to experience in the theater all year.  This is the first time that The Visitor has been released uncut in the United States, so while you're watching a movie filmed 34 years ago, you're also watching one that is, in a way, new.

The film follows what happens when a God-like figure (John Huston) comes down to earth to get the soul of a young telekinetic girl, as she has part of a supervillain in her.   

The Visitor is an indescribable sensation.  The film itself isn't completely coherent (there are so many odd subplots that convolute the narrative and are completely forgotten), but when watching something this audacious and this bizarre, it doesn't matter.  As I was sitting down watching The Visitor, I simply couldn't believe what a great piece of junk it is.  It is terrible in many respects.  The acting is shaky, as is the hilariously overdone music.  That being said, it is an interesting piece of filmmaking, since  it seems as if the filmmakers actually took time to make what they thought would be a good film.

The cinematography is sometimes very cheesy and overly dramatic, but some shots are beautifully composed and haunting, particularly in the opening sequence.  And no one can fault this film for not being narratively inventive.  This is one odd piece of filmmaking and it constantly amazes with one over-the-top scene after another.

Overall, The Visitor is a must-see film for anyone interested in cult cinema or for anyone sick of the constant stream of sequels, prequels, and remakes being pushed into theaters now.  It is a film like no other and one that I will not assign a star rating because it would be unfair to reduce something like this to a simple group of stars.  How does one rate this?  In so many ways, it is horrible, but in many other ways, it's fantastic.  The bottom line is: this is an incredibly bizarre, yet endlessly fascinating and entertaining film.

Here is where you can see The Visitor in theaters:

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