And now for something completely different: An absolutely bizarre and unstoppably watchable oddity, 1979’s “The Visitor” is Like The Exorcist, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Rosemary’s Baby, The Birds and 2001: A Space Odyssey all got wine-drunk at the Giallo drive-in and had a mutant baby.
And it’s not like their influences on the film are subtle… the film’s Italian writer and producer Ovidio G. Assonitis was known as “The Rip Off King” for films like Beyond the Door (The Exorcist) and Tentacles (Jaws but with a killer octopus), wholesale copies of popular American genre films made cheap for the European market. But in “The Visitor” Assonitis and director Giulio Paradisi (credited as Michael J. Paradise, easily one of the best hack pseudonyms ever) go nuts and steal everything that wasn’t nailed down in the warehouse of 1970’s Horror Cinema Ideas and create a weird, wildly psychadelic and almost undefinable b-movie gem that’s greater than the sum of it’s many, many parts.
To call “The Visitor” another rip-off though, would be woefully inaccurate. It’s actually kind of genius in its own bonkers, impossible to explain way. We start in an hallucinatory, alien landscape, Jerzy Colsowicz (John Huston) experiences a mind-altering vision of a powerful and destructive storm brought about by a young human girl, Katy, who is the descendant of an evil alien guy named Zatteen (there’s that subtle writing in effect) who fled to Earth thousands of years ago. He was killed by a bunch of birds, somehow under the control of God, but his spirit lives on through his evil, bald-assed bastard children, whom he made dozens of by getting all kinds of 1979 freaky with some sexy ladies. Katy has mind-control powers that she sometimes tries to kill people with, and a pet hawk who she is telepathically linked with, and there’s a cabal of creepy old men led by Lance Henriksen as an Atlanta Billionaire (huh?) who are dead-set on getting her mom pregnant in a sort of reverse Rosemary’s baby meets Omen kind of thing to bring about a new world by opening a dimension portal. Or something. “The Visitor” is definitely “you just gotta see it” territory as Katy and her family battle forces beyond the realm of any logical plot you’ve seen before.
Film.com’s David Ehrlich referred to “The Visitor” as “a remake of The Bad Seed as filtered through the acid-tinged mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky” and we’d have to agree. Evan Husney from DraftHouse Films, who led the restoration of “The Visitor” several years ago, told Vice at the time:
“There are two ways to watch the movie. The first is where you just completely disregard the movie’s logic. The second is to put every scene down on a notecard and lay it out—then you’ll kind of see the A to Z plot going on, but there’s never a sense of you knowing what’s happening as it’s happening. It has this completely nonsensical logic and if you’re cool with that, great. The movie just seems like it’s a mashup of 40 different movies.”
A schizophrenic blend of shot-for-shot imagery from existing films and goofy, self serious 70’s symbolism that likely made sense to the moviemakers at the time of production, “The Visitor” is difficult to sum up as it defies logical explanation. It’s been called “The Mount Everest Of Insane 70’s Italian Movies” and championed by those that argue that It’s actually well made, but doesn’t make much sense. For Horror-heads there’s lots of kills, but we can’t really understand who most of the characters are and why they get murdered in so many ways: However none of this really matters, because like other films that champion style over story (Blood Machines anyone?), if you’re into it after the inter-dimensional monks battling an alien devil intro on another planet, you’ll probably have a blast watching it like we did.