Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

October of Horror #1: The Visitor (1979)

Posted by Trixter on October 1, 2018


(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A late 1970s cross between The Omen and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Visitor is, as the name implies, a visitor from another planet comes to Earth to try to stop a child with evil powers.

Opinion

I was expecting pure Italian cheese, being another in a long line of Italian sci-fi/horror knock-offs, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much this film pulled off.  It starts with some science-fiction mythology that will confuse you if you don’t know the synopsis of the film beforehand, but then from about the 15-minute mark to an hour later, it’s a genuinely interesting and well-crafted film that holds your attention.  As an Omen knock-off, it works very well.  The evil girl in question, Paige Conner, is very talented (not just acting, but we see her performing some impressive gymnastics and ice skating as well), and strikes the correct tone for something sinister under the surface.  Other players (including John Huston, Shelly Winters, and a young Lance Henriksen) all play it completely straight.  (Fans of Henriksen won’t be disappointed; his acting is very natural.)  Some of the practical effects are fantastic for the late 1970s, including the best live bird manipulation I’ve ever seen in a film.  Some of the locations and Ennio Guarnieri’s cinematography are also really great throughout most of the movie.  The sound design is also excellent, and less heavy-handed than The Omen.

Unfortunately, the last 45 minutes of the film has some severe pacing problems, some character turns that don’t feel quite right (and others, such as Shelly Winters, chewing up the scenery), and a slightly clumsy final act that feels like the film ran out of time or money to complete properly.  There is also a God/Devil allegory that is hinted at, then not hinted at, then clumsily mixed with science fiction?

Recommendation

If you remember the 1970s and can overlook its problems, it’s worth seeing, if anything to see the idealized perfect 1970’s house (A pool in the living room! Front-projection TV playing Pong! A Desert Patrol arcade game!).

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