The Visitor is a colorful, crazy 1979 horror film that takes all the best elements of 1970s Italian maximalist horror – Animals! Fog! Ghouls! Bad moms! Evil kids! Intergalactic twists! – and mashes them together to a delightful horror pulp piece of cinema. Directed by Giulio Paradisi under the pseudonym “Michael J. Paradise,” the film is about an evil little girl whose soul is being pursued by alien forces of good and evil. It’s a visual masterpiece, a morsel of horror that you imagine not existing but, hey, here we are.
The film received a spectacular rerelease from Drafthouse, opening up the peculiar film to American audiences for the first time ever. The film is singular for many reasons. First, it’s set in Atlanta, a horror filming location that only seems to have been given the time of day today for shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things. Second, it collapses all the topline ideas from major 1960s and 1970s breakout films from The Birds to The Omen, blending them together in colorful pastiche. Third, it features hippie looking space gods who may look like badly wigged Wes Bentley amongst bald children. Fourth, the soundtrack is an incredible tour de force. And, lastly, it features Shelly Fucking Winters as a delicious bitch of a nanny.
Paradisi’s direction is phenomenal too. There are scenes so choreographed that you’d think they were from a Michel Gondry music video. There are strange lo-fi effects that push the imaginary into an abstract realism. There is delightfully evil child acting coaxed out of a little girl that rivals icons like Damien Thorn. The locations are breathtaking, particularly the Modernist house that the evil child lives in with her mother. That house alone should be reason for you to turn on the film.
But alas: you want frights. It’s got them! It’s not balls-to-the-walls horror, the type that makes you itchy and uncomfortable as you watch for jump scares but instead the vicious and weird type that verges on ridiculous. It’s not too gory but there are wild moments like a teen getting thrown off a skating rink through a restaurant window or the final fight between the mother and the daughter that sends the parent through a ringer of violence. It’s quite good.
For those searching for a peculiar, moody, left-of-center horror treat this Halloween, I cannot recommend The Visitor enough. You will adore it.