“The Visitor” is a Southern Gothic horror tale of modest ambitions and equally modest frights and delights. A polished production from Blumhouse TV for Paramount, with Epix TV its ultimate destination (in Dec.), it’s a film that delights in quaint Tennessee Williamsisms applied to a horror formula that treats “Rosemary’s Baby” as its Ur text.
Finn Jones, a “Game of Thrones” alumnus (like every other Brit) and one of the stars of the new “Swimming with Sharks” TV series is Robert Burroughs, a Londoner who moves with his wife back to her ancestral home in the drawling, Spanish moss-bedecked Deep South after the death of her father. The place seems welcoming enough, until Robert starts noticing old paintings and Civil War era photographs with his face in them.
Wife Maya (Australian Jessica McNamee, who was Margaret Court in “The Battle of the Sexes”) is “the prodigal daughter” who returns to sleepy Briar Glen, welcomed by one and all — especially the florid, MO-lasses-accented preacher, Rev. Otis Ellis. He’s played with a growling, tipsy twinkle by Dane Rhodes, who seems to be having more fun than anybody else in this picture.
Maya is settling back in, but Robert is poking around and having nightmares. When a local slips him a note, he starts finding folks — an antiques dealer (Donna Briscoe), a wild-eyed local character (Thomas Francis Murphy) who urge him to “Run back to London and don’t EVER come back!”
He wants “the truth,” but as you might guess, he can’t HANDLE the truth.
As a native Southerner who lost his accent long ago, I always get a kick out of thespians who get off their Delta flight from wherever and start extemporizing like Foghorn Leghorn the moment the assistant director bellows “ACTION.”
“In the town of Briar Glen, suh, you ahhh NEVAH alone!”
Aside from that, there’s not much to grab hold of, here. “The Visitor” fights a losing battle with over-familiarity, sauntering through horror tropes that predate 24 frames-per-second era celluloid.
I’d love to see a five year ban of horrific occurrences punctuated with “It’s only a dream,” “You were just having a nightmare” if the screenwriter’s particularly lazy.
At least no one states anything that obvious in “The Visitor.” That’s small consolation for a movie that has little for genre fans, little star power and not nearly enough drawling drowned in moonshine to turn camp, I do declare.
Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Finn Jones, Jessica McNamee, Donna Briscoe, Thomas Francis Murphy and Dane Rhodes.
Credits: Directed by Justin P. Lange, scripted Simon Boyes and Adam Mason. A Blumhouse production, a Paramount release.
Running time: 1:29