A Horror Movie With An Identity Crisis

Dec 29, 2022

The Visitor tries to be a mash-up of several genres, but it would’ve been much better suited picking one horror lane and leaning into it.

Finn Jones in The Visitor 

For much of The Visitor’s runtime, things go as expected — not for characters like Finn Jones’ Jake, but for the audience, who, fifteen minutes in, will realize quickly what is going on (for the most part). While The Visitor does save some surprises for its final ten minutes, the movie’s fatal flaw is that those ten minutes are a lot more interesting than what comes before it. The Visitor, directed by Justin P. Lange and written by Simon Boyes and Adam Mason, stars Jones (Iron Fist) and Jessica McNamee (Mortal Kombat). As much as it tries to be a mash-up of several genres, it would’ve been much better had it picked one lane and leaned into it.

The Visitor follows Jake (Jones), a man who, after suffering a series of tragedies with his wife Maia (McNamee), moves back to her hometown to start over after the death of her father Edgar. Things seem idyllic at first — the dilapidated yet charming country house, the colorful locals who welcome them with open arms, and the idea of starting fresh. Everything quickly goes south when Jake discovers a portrait in the attic of a man who looks just like him. Dubbed “the visitor” by locals, Jake starts seeing the man in portraits in antique shops and in his dreams. Some locals try to warn him away, but Maia wants to stay, even as plague-like symptoms descend on the town and their pastor gets a little too cozy with Jake. As he continues his investigation and people start dying, though, Maia begins to question the sanity of her husband and whether they should have come home in the first place.

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Finn Jones in The Visitor

The Visitor is full of clichés, inescapable in horror but forgivable when done the right way. It’s by no means groundbreaking, but The Visitor does manage to subvert the “woman goes crazy in a big house” trope for a time. Jake is the one going mad this time around, but it’s a little more complicated than questions of sanity. Fortunately, Jones plays the role dutifully as Maia questions her husband’s headspace and gaslights him into believing everything is totally fine, even after what appear to be biblical plagues strike the town.

Other clichés are not so easily subverted in The Visitor as Jake starts seeing the titular visitor in his dreams and realizes that something else may be going on. This is where the identity crisis comes in. The Visitor can’t seem to decide what it wants to be, playing fast and loose with different subgenres that don’t all quite come together. To list them all would be to verge into spoiler territory, but the film saves its most interesting one for the very end. What comes after the credits roll is more intriguing than what precedes it, and only partly because it is left to the imagination. The twist itself, shoved into the final twenty minutes of the film without much room to breathe, is telegraphed early on, but there are layers to it that manage to make the climax both compelling and confounding.

Jessica McNamee and Finn Jones in The Visitor

Jones sells the twist with a devilish grin, but that’s all he’s required to do. Ultimately, though, The Visitor is not all that scary, and it may only be mildly disturbing to those who trend towards squeamish. It kind of feels like a made-for-TV horror movie, one viewers might find scrolling through the channels in a hotel room and leave on just because. A horror film can commit much worse sins than this, so it’s to The Visitor’s testament that it’s not entirely boring. It is atmospheric and eerie, building to a conclusion that leaves one wanting more. The same can’t be said about a lot of straight-to-streaming horror these days.

Next: Piggy Review: Spanish Horror Film Explores Human Cruelty To Great Effect

The Visitor is will be available on digital and on-demand October 7 before streaming on EPIX in December. The film is 86 minutes long and

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