EDITOR’S NOTE: During Fantastic Fest, one of my favorite films of all time is getting shown as it should be, on the big screen — The Visitor — which we originally wrote about on September 1, 2017. It will be presented in conjunction with the launch of Mondo’s new book Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive, from author Lars Nilsen and editor Kier-La Janisse. Warped & Faded tells the story of the Wild West days of the Weird Wednesday film series and the American Genre Film Archive in the words of the people who were there. You can pre-order the book from Mondo HERE!
In 2013, when the Alamo Drafthouse presented the uncut version of this film for the first time in the United States, they referred to it as an “unforgettable assault on reality.” Those words best describe what is otherwise an indescribable film.
But I’m going to try.
Maybe a recipe will help.
Take Chariots of the Gods, and some of Rosemary’s Mary, then a little bit of The Omen, throw it in a blender and then pour the whole thing down the sink.
No? Maybe a synopsis.
We start in Heaven, or somewhere very much like it, where Franco Nero (the original Django) is one of those space gods that Erich von Däniken wrote about. He tells the bald children who surround him that there was once a war between two aliens, one good and one bad. The bad one — who is either called Sateen or Zathaar — was defeated, but not before he slept with a whole bunch of Earthwomen. Cue the Book of Enoch in the Lost Books of the Bible. Or cue the Scientology myth of Lord Xenu. Or Xemu, because he has two different spellings, too.
Only one child is left — a young girl — and a vast conspiracy wants her mother to have another child — a brother this time — so they can mate. The Christ figure sends John Huston — yes, the director of The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen — and the bald children to a rooftop somewhere in Atlanta to stop this plot. To do that, the children become adult bad men and dance around a lot while Huston walks up and down the stairs to triumphant music. If you think I’m making that last sentence up, you’ve never been blessed with this movie.
Meanwhile, Lance Henriksen (Near Dark, Aliens) is Ted Turner, pretty much. His name is Raymond Armstead and he owns the Atlanta Rebels basketball team that plays at the Omni and is dating Barbara (Joanne Nail, Switchblade Sisters), who of course is the woman who has the seed of the gods inside her. Her daughter Katy is 8 years old and already using her powers to help the Rebels win their games. But that isn’t all the help Raymond is getting. The rich, powerful and ultra-secretive Zathaar cult control the world and are helping his team become winners. All he has to do is marry Barbara, knock her up and let their kids fuck. Hopefully, they have a boy, or Raymond is gonna have to get in the saddle all over again.
Raymond can’t even do that right and the leader of the bad guys, Mel Ferrer(The Antichrist and Eaten Alive!) is upset and ready to quit on Raymond. Barbara doesn’t want more kids and certainly doesn’t want another child. But who can blame her? Her daughter is one creepy little girl. Her daughter knows all about the conspiracy and begs her mom to get married so she can have a brother (and this is where, in person, I’d throw in “…to have sex with” but I’d use the f word). How creepy is Katy? Well, she kills a bunch of boys with her mental powers because they make fun of her while she ice skates. And then she accidentally shoots her mother at a birthday party. Yep, it’s as if The Bad Seed met Carrie!
Then, as all 70’s occult movies must, the stars of Hollywood’s golden age make appearances!
Glenn Ford, the actor, plays a cop that Katy curses out and uses hawks to make wreck his car!
Shelley Winters plays Barbara’s nurse who once had one of the space babies and killed it, but can’t bring herself to kill Katy! According to interviews, Winters really smacked around Paige Conner, the actress who played Katy!
Sam Peckinpah, the director (!), plays an abortionist who removes one of the space babies from Barbara after the conspiracy pays a bunch of things to artificially inseminate her. Turns out Peckinpah had trouble remembering his lines, which is why we never learn that he’s Barabara’s ex-husband! Then is he Katy’s dad? Who knows! His voice is even Peckinpah’s! They had to ADR all of his dialogue.
In response to the abortion, Katy shoves her mom through a fish tank. She also decides to throw her down the stairs, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?-style. And by throw her down the steps, I mean do it over and over and over again.
Meanwhile, John Huston is still going up and down the stairs. Finally, they HAVE HAD ENOUGH (I like to emphasize that so you get the gist) and sent their John Woo-ian flock of doves to fight the hawks. And meanwhile, Mel Ferrer and all his men show up dead with black marks on their bodies.
And Katy? Well, as Huston tells us, kids can never be evil. She gets her head shaved and goes to space to meet Instellar Jesus Christ. The title comes up as insane music blares.
Writer/director/insane man Michael J. Paradise (Giulio Paradisi) also was in Fellini’s 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. What inspired him to this level of cinematic goofiness? He was helped along by Ovidio G. Assonitis, whose resume includes writing Beyond the Door, Madhouse and Forever Emmanuelle before becoming the major stockholder and CEO of Cannon Pictures in 1990. That may explain some. But not all.
I know I often write things like “I don’t have the words to describe this” when I do these reviews — especially after I write a few hundred words all about said subject. But this is one time that that statement is not pure hyperbole. Just watch the trailer and be prepared to lose your grasp on normalcy!
The Visitor defies the logic of good and bad film. It can only be graded on the is it an absolute film, ala Fulci or Jodorowsky. It is something to be experienced. You can watch this movie on Tubi.