Critics' Pick

The Visitor (2007) (PG-13)

Drama 108 April 25th, 2008
By Alan Scherstuhl
If it were the late '70s, and you were a wunderkind film artist making space-opera kids stuff, you went out and bagged yourself a great to class it up: Guinness; Truffaut. Perhaps that tradition explains the gloriously strange opening moments of 1979's The Visitor, an Italian-American science-fiction horror clusterfuck newly released in HD by the Alamo Drafthouse. It opens with an alien desert under a great radiating blob of sun, as two robed, Jedi-like figures square off, space western style. One is John Huston, the consummate writer-director of the studio era. The other is a little girl in knee-socks and a pink dress, her face flaking, for some reason spackled over like the ceiling of your first apartment. From there, director Michael J. Paradise -- actually Giulio Paradisi -- cuts to a goldilocksed hippy fellow (possibly Jesus) giving a speech to shaven-headed children in a space spa. Come to find out the universe is beset by evil superpowered children. And from there we cut to the actual setting: '70s Atlanta, where Katy (Paige Conner), one such telekinetic little girl, is performing cruel, ridiculous stunts: bizarrely altering the final play of an NBA game; maiming her mother. Her dad is the strangest sight yet -- a young Lance Henriksen. He answers to a space council that berates him for not having more kids; Henriksen's wife "carries in her womb something that transcends the world of everyday reality," says the head councilor. With that the film is at last off to its creepy, baffling races: Here's that Bad Seed/Rosemary's Baby/The Fury/Close Encounters in Hotlanta thriller you were looking for, put together like a magpie's nest with even stranger borrowings.
Tom McCarthy Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira Tom McCarthy Mary Jane Skalski, Michael London Overture Films