When a film has a cast that includes Hollywood legends such as John Huston, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, and Sam Peckinpah you expect you are in for something great. Sadly, such is not the case with The Visitor (also known as Stridulum) which has more in common with a schlocky soap opera than the classic films its cast is best known for.
This sci-fi/satanist genre bending movie was released in 1979 and filmed in Italy and the US. The story centres on a precociously evil young girl named Katy (played by Paige Conner) who is possessed by an ancient evil force called Zatteen which was somehow passed on to her by her mother Barbara (played by Joanne Nail).
The plot of this supernatural soap opera is thickened by her mother’s boyfriend Raymond (played by Lance Henriksen in one of his first roles). It turns out that the successful businessman is also a satanist (aren’t they all) and has dark plans to impregnate Barbara in order to bring a male child into the world so her children can eventually mate to bring a physical manifestation of Zatteen into the world.
In the background of all this, the evil Zatteen’s arch nemesis, Yahweh (curiously but effectively played by John Huston), is attempting to thwart the satanists’ attempts at unleashing Zatteen’s special brand of evil into the world once again. After consulting with a hippy-like supreme leader who enjoys hanging out with a bunch of bald kids in robes, Yahweh embarks for the mortal world to stop all hell from breaking loose.
Much of the rest of The Visitor includes a series of bizarre confrontations between Katy and other characters that serve to illustrate just how evil she is. Notable encounters include a seemingly endless ice skating excursion where she shows up some bullies with her figure skating abilities before flinging them through walls in Blades of Glory fashion. She also seems to really enjoy tormenting her wheel chair bound mom, culminating with a scene where she pushes her from a chairlift, sending her tumbling down a flight of stairs in dramatic telenovela fashion.
Midway through the film, the family’s new no-nonsense housekeeper Jane (played by Shelley Winters channeling Mary Poppins) arrives. Jane has no patience for Katy’s evil antics and attempts to keep her in line. Shelley does a noble job in a thankless role, trying to bring some credibility to an incredulous plot. The presence of respected actors such as John Huston and herself only seem to add to the absurdity of the film.
The most entertaining aspect of this film is the unintended comedy provided by a series of improbable events and characters. Creepy Katy and her Satan loving dad are finally brought down by a swarm of birds that were sent to do the Lord’s work.
In another bit of odd casting, noted director/writer Sam Peckinpah is cast as Katy’s biological father. A doctor, his character is enlisted to perform an abortion on his ex-wife after she is forcibly impregnated by the satanists. I’m almost certain this was a plot line on Young and the Restless at some point.
John Huston brings credibility to the film but was certainly slumming it when he signed on for this one. According to IMDB, Lance Henriksen indicated that he and other actors only agreed to do the film for a free trip to Italy, while calling it “a real turkey”. As a longtime fan of Henriksen, I would have to agree with his interpretation.
If you are a fan of schlocky sci-fi or unintentionally funny films, you may be mildly entertained by The Visitor. If not, I suggest this turkey is best left unvisited.