Have you ever heard that joke about the old man facing the end of days? He’s given multiple escalating opportunities to escape (in the version I’ve heard, potential rescuers come by first with a car, then a boat, then a helicopter) Through it all, the old man stays steadfast in his belief that God will save him. When he inevitably perishes, he confronts God and demands to know why his faith wasn’t rewarded. God laughs and says, “You idiot! I tried to send you a car, a boat, and a helicopter!”
Justin P. Lange‘s The Visitor is an immensely enjoyable horror film populated by a protagonist who has certainly never heard this joke. Things pretty quickly go amiss when Robert (Finn Jones) relocates from London to his wife’s small town. While settling into her childhood home, Robert finds a mysterious portrait in her attic. It is of a man referred to only as “The Visitor”, and he bears a striking resemblance to Robert.
While Maia (Jessica McNamee) laughs this off as a coincidence, this and other factors about town set Robert on edge. Jones does a good job of telegraphing Robert’s slowly deepening dread, but he’s fighting a losing battle against the film’s script. Things are obviously amiss in this town. Everyone is way too friendly, and certainly too grateful that Robert and Maia have moved back to town. I thought of Jordan Peele’s superb Get Out, where the protagonist similarly squirms against the discomfort of his circumstances. In that film, the audience was made to question their instinctual doubts and allegiances. Here, the red flags are far less subtle.
There is still much to like in The Visitor. The core performances are uniformly strong. Jones and McNamee have nice unforced chemistry, and I wished the film had given us more time with them. It is effectively paced (86 minutes!) and contains several genuinely frightful and inventive scares. I especially loved the way the film leveraged the biblical plagues without feeling the need for too much supporting exposition.
While I found some of The Visitor’s narrative beats obvious, I also found the core mythology of The Visitor somewhat irresistible. It could offer franchise potential. If someone is willing to paint another portrait, I’d be willing to take another look.
Paramount Home Entertainment will release the psychological horror/thriller film THE VISITOR on Digital and On Demand on October 7, 2022 and it will stream on EPIX in December 2022. The film is part of the Blumhouse Television and EPIX deal to produce eight original films together. Building on Blumhouse Television’s success with the Welcome to the Blumhouse movies slate for Amazon and Into the Dark anthology series for Hulu, the deal is the first-of-its-kind for EPIX, which is adding films to its growing slate of premium original content.
THE VISITOR stars Finn Jones (“Game of Thrones”), Jessica McNamee (Mortal Kombat), Dane Rhodes (Where the Crawdads Sing) and Donna Biscoe (“Saints & Sinners”). The film was written by Adam Mason (Songbird) & Simon Boyes (Songbird) and directed by Justin P. Lange (The Seventh Day). The film was Executive Produced by Bradley Pilz, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, Jeremy Gold, Chris McCumber, David Grove Churchill Viste and Jason Blum.