The Visitation Gave Me Nightmares
By Kristin Battestella
The cover looked cool and it was quasi religious-that’s how we came to purchase The Visitation. Edward Furlong and Kelly Lynch star in the 2006 Independent thriller from director Robby Henson and novelist Frank Peretti.
Martin Donovan stars as Travis, a minister who has lost his faith since his wife’s murder. Fellow minister Kyle (Randy Travis) encourages Travis to get involved when strange sightings around the quiet town of Antioch occur. Mysterious prophetic men appear and disappear, and new veterinarian in town Morgan (Kelly Lynch) is healed. Her rebellious son Michael (Noah Segan) quickly falls under this powerful spell after a freaky near fatal car accident. When Brandon Nichols (Edward Furlong) finally arrives in Antioch, all the women in town fall into his group. But to Travis and atheist Morgan, Brandon is not the messiah he appears to be.
It wasn’t Furlong’s ambiguous portrayal that spooked me, but his here and there again disciples are the freakiest things since Julian Sands in Warlock. They kill Travis’ dog only to resurrect it; they give words of wisdom around town-not the help the people of Antioch, but to sway them in Brandon Nichols’ favor. When the trio stake’s out Morgan’s home , the window apparitions are downright creepy. My bed is currently next to my window, so the thought of sadistic long haired demonic angels pacing a foot away from my head definitely gave me a few bad dreams. Well…okay nightmares so bad I woke up with my heart pounding. Not a lot of films can do that!
Edward Furlong’s acting as the second coming in The Visitation, however, leaves much to be desired. He’s good at being bad, but Furlong doesn’t sell the charismatic leader well. He’s known as a Hollywood bad boy, so right from the start we know Brandon’s up to no good. After his true intentions are revealed, Furlong does little to gain sympathy for his character. His acting hasn’t grown much beyond Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but director Henson (Thr3e) smartly focuses elsewhere. Furlong isn’t the star of the film, Travis Jordan is. We relate to his story far better, and Donovan (Weeds) shows his angst well. We know his vibe; because he thinks something is fishy, so do we. Likewise, we understand Kelly Lynch and Morgan’s struggle and doubts. Traditional fans or country enthusiasts might wish to tune in for Randy Travis. The crooner’s portrayal of the Billy Graham like Pentecostal leader in town is steadfast as the voice of reason in Antioch. His character is integral to the film, and perhaps there should be a touch more of him.
The convoluted story in The Visitation, however, does need some fine tuning. We receive Nichols’ back story a little too late, but it’s double tied and redundant. We are meant to sympathize with him, but the herky jerky abuse flashbacks don’t plant the seed well enough for us to imagine the horrors endured. It’s as if screenwriter Brian Godawa thought something on Nichols was needed, but I’m not so sure it was.
Initially I thought this was a horror movie, so I was surprised to find it online in a Christian catalogue. Henson’s movie is about the awesome, tempting, too good too be true power of the devil, the costs of said power, and the dark half of human nature that Satan needs. Looking all bad and Warlocked on the outside, The Visitation is really a very serious religious film about faith. The moral dilemmas in The Visitation are swift and complex. Morgan is the anti-Christian who is saved by the Bible given to her from Kyle Sherman. When Travis is tempted by Nichols in his cultish revival tent, it’s incredibly easy to give in. Everyone else has, but Travis holds fast to his supposedly lost faith. Even when he discovers his wife’s murder is directly involved with Nichols’ plan, Travis does the right thing. Brandon Nichols, unfortunately, puts his faith in Satan and his spooky angels.
I would also label The Exorcist as a quasi religious film like The Visitation. As is the case here, we witness the deceiving power of the Prince of Darkness. Both films are equal parts horror and religion. Where The Exorcist scares you witless, The Visitation wins on what you can’t see. Contemporary Christian teens will love the struggles in The Visitatio and perhaps its source novel. The mock crucifixions, however, are too frightening for kids or prudes. The point here is your religious choice. Could Nichols have chosen Christ over the Devil? The Visitation makes the audience think on this also. Can we?
With precious little effects and solid acting, Henson puts out a serious moral film just as much along the lines of Elmer Gantry and The Apostle as The Exorcist. Henson could have easily created an effects laden gory, all the stops out, wow is the devil show. Thankfully, he didn’t. The Visitation is for horror fans, religious groups, devout young adults, and all the skeptics alike. Regardless of where you’re coming from, The Visitation is worth the watch-and the nightmares.