Good vs. evil! Abortion! Potty-mouthed asshole children! Frank Nero as Jesus? Frank Nero as Jesus! Shelly Winters power-slaps! How to fight off bullies on the ice skating rink! Lance Henrikson getting his ass kicked by a plastic falcon! This is The Visitor, a super low budget horror film from 1979.
There’s a lot of fun going on in The Visitor, but I really couldn’t tell you what it’s about. It’s a bizarre circus of magic and mayhem, and stars Sam Peckinpah (director of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and The Wild Bunch), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Glenn Ford (Clark Kent’s dad in Superman 1979), Franco Nero (Django) Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure, Lolita, Night of the Hunter) and John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) as people of good and bad higher power trying to get inside the head of and brainwash an 8-year-old girl with telekinesis powers and an attitude that will put any Hollywood diva to shame. Things will go one of two ways: 1) good or 2) the opposite of good.
Most of the plot doesn’t make any sense and it’s hard to say who’s on whose side (good versus evil thing). If you read the back of the Blu-ray or DVD box, it’ll tell you this eight-year-old is needed to take control of the world — so God (Peckinpah, I think) and the Devil (a collective of foes including Henriksen) duke it out on earth while the girl wrecks the place in her own little telekinesis asshole way (putting a heavy emphasis on asshole).
A lot of people bitched about The Visitor when it originally released in 1979. Why? People like to bitch. The eerily attractive poster (see below) was frustratingly misleading (that freakish eyeball never appears in the movie, dammit) and the writer and producer, Italian-American filmmaker Ovidio G. Assonitis, was known for ripping off highly acclaimed Hollywood horror — The Visitor bleeds The Omen and The Exorcist. Anyway, it quickly overstayed its welcome and went away until Tim League and Drafthouse Films (the coolest cinematic megaphone for reviving old repertory gems) brought it back from its dusty grave. And Wallah! This out-of-towner has a new, permanent home.
Even though it’s cheap, senseless, and just odd, it’s a good film. Why? Because I was entertained. I laughed, loved the corny visual effects, and was entertained from beginning to end — that’s the purpose of a movie, right? The Visitor is truly one of the most absurd movies to come out of the heavily experimental decade in film—the 1970s—but it’s also a lot of fun.
There are some really bonkers, balls-to-the-wall, and gloriously harsh scenes that’ll keep your focus if you start to zone out. One that stands above most is when Shelley Winters really slaps the shit out of Telekinesis Girl (Paige Conner) for being a little asshole. I read that the slaps were real and, in fact, every parent should show their kids that scene when they are disobeying.
With good versus bad, God against Satan, right and wrong: The Visitor is stuffed like a fat turkey with symbolism throughout the film. Is there a moral? Sure. Never trust an eight-year-old to save the world.
Original poster from 1979