Last night, I curled up to watch the 1979 artsy sci-fi thriller, The Visitor. Before I watched the movie, I combed the World Wide Web for information about Italian director and bit-part actor Giulio Paradisi’s only venture into the genre of suspense. Despite the dozens convoluted plot synopses that I read, the blogosphere gave me the impression that I was about to watch a run-of-the-mill B-grade B-movie about aliens and evil spirits that used low-budget special effects in an attempt to make its moralizing conceit more appealing. But boy. I was mistaken.
In The Visitor, you will not see the bare breasts, dead skanks, alien goo, or seizing, possessed children that characterize so many films of the same genre. Instead, Paradisi integrates campy light shows and empty symbolism into a plot that doesn’t making any freaking sense. And it’s marvelous.
The plot centers around little girl named Katy, who becomes the object of contestation between the forces of good and evil, which are personified by warring groups of aliens in this movie (naturally.) Katy is the sole descendent of Sateen—who I believe was an ancient evil spirit that procreated with earthly women, bestowing his offspring with telekinetic powers. She received these powers from her struggling single mother, Barbara, who is terrified of her violent and oh-so-creepy daughter. One alien leader—whose strong resemblance to traditional depictions of Jesus Christ suggests that he works for the forces of good—sends an emissary named Jerzy (played by John Huston) to kidnap Katy to bring her back to their Edenic planet inhabited by bald, silent children dressed in white robes. Meanwhile, a rival group of evil aliens dressed in suits and ties meet in a boardroom to formulate a plot to carry on Sateen’s lineage on Earth by sending a handsome fellow named Raymond to seduce and impregnate Katy’s mother. Chaos ensues as Katy sees Kareem Abdul Jabar, plays a lot of Pong, and tries to kill her mother several times.
As the plot progresses, it’s punctuated by several shots of Jerzy observing—or perhaps causing—several tacky light shows in the night sky, which I think are supposed to parallel the plot, but it’s unclear. (Paradisi is asking too much of his viewers if he expects them to both keep track of the plot and decode these artsy interludes.) Despite the utter ridiculousness of much of the film, I was genuinely scared for at least eight of The Visitor’s 101 minutes, mostly due to Franco Micalizzi’s soundtrack, which one blogger aptly characterized as a “schizophrenic mix of the perfectly eerie and explosively lame.” (1)
And so, to make you more jumpy, the plot more confusing, and the interjections more disorientating, I have devised a drinking game for you play if you should watch The Visitor.
-An award-winning actor graces the screen. (There are a lot of them, but the familiarity of these faces may be lost on anyone born after 1975.)
-A character hears Gremlin-esque squeaking. (Although this happens throughout the film, we never learn the cause of this phenomenon.)
-Bright lights dance on an otherwise black screen (including, but not limited to, the laser light shows discussed above.)
-A character bears an uncanny resemblance to a dead pop culture icon (including, but not limited to, Jesus Christ and Janis Joplin.)
-The camera pans more than 360 degrees. (Only do this if you can really hold your liquor…)
-You see an angry bird (For all of you iPhone gamers out there.)
-Katy rides the wheelchair lift installed on the stairs after she shoots and paralyzes her mother.
So, get some beer, find your friends, gather ‘round your computer and I guarantee that you will love this movie. You'll also be very, very drunk. So you know, you're welcome for that.
Clara Gamalski lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She loves Law & Order and her mom. She is also needlessly modest about her own accomplishments.