Studio: Eagle One Media
Director: Jon Binkowski
Writer: Jon Binkowski, Stephen DeWoody
Producer: Ben Kupfer, Jon Binkowski
Stars: Michele Feren, Tracie Wiu, Sallie Glaner
A grieving woman wonders if the spirit haunting her home may be her dead husband trying to communicate or an entity far more malevolent in nature.
“The Visitant” would never merit a flat-out recommendation as a thriller that fans should seek out when there is an endless backlog of more important and more entertaining films cluttering shelves and choking online streaming queues. Yet in considering those who factor resources, filmmaker experience, and project scope into expectations before viewing a film, it is conceivable that tolerance of the micro-budget aspect of “The Visitant” can forgive its technical shortcomings and make it an effort worth appreciating.
It would not be surprising if it were revealed that “The Visitant” was made for less than five figures, although it would be a surprise if its price tag were more than $15-20k, everything included. Most of the movie is a one house, one woman event and frankly, there is nothing about its design that screams noteworthy. This is the kind of film made on favors and for some fun, suggested by credits that include a “Gerbil Wrangler” and five people dedicated to a “Fortuneteller Wardrobe Team,” which is undoubtedly an in-joke of some sort.
At the same time, there is a draw to the simplicity of a movie that is not straining to be anything more than it is. It is economically produced, yet there is a sense that the filmmakers respect it like a million dollar movie. That respect translates into respect for the audience, even if the movie does not ultimately deliver the ghost story goods.
Samantha is a phony sideshow fortuneteller, but a likable one exploiting the “entertainment purposes only” angle for carnival-goers looking for a fun palm reading. For a main character, Sam is slightly unusual in that she is “normal,” and that is her key appeal. She is a frustrated actress coping with the death of her husband, but not overly struggling any more than an average Everyman does with daily life. Sam also slots into a late thirties, early forties demographic that is not seen too often in film. “The Visitant” grabs considerable mileage by making her immediately accessible through a relatable lifestyle.
Sam and her best friend Maya end conversations with “love you.” The other always responds, “love you more.” Corny maybe, but it is endearing qualities like these that keep “The Visitant” grounded, which is always essential when a story veers into supernatural territory.
“The Visitant” is a straightforward bump in the night haunter where the protagonist questions her sanity while learning about ghosts and investigating paranormal activity. In addition to being well-covered ground premise-wise, there is little here besides one actress and one ghost, which is one more reason why horror veterans are unlikely to find anything of interest.
I cannot imagine anyone other than someone who sees few horror films or who believes s/he has had a similar not-so-spooky encounter would be invested enough to feel a quickening pulse. Even the soundtrack fights to find moments of action, kicking in a thumping rhythm fitting for a Liam Neeson thriller when all Samantha has to do in a scene is disable a noisy smoke detector.
“The Visitant” is reportedly “based on actual events,” although looking into the details of that “true story” reveals a plain vanilla background. On the film’s official website, a behind-the-scenes video with executive producer Lisa Enos Smith reveals that those “actual events” were just some innocuous occurrences that once happened to her in 1999 (although they may have been legitimately terrifying for Smith). This includes the smoke detector incident and the consumption of spoiled milk, but nothing along the lines of murders or nefarious deeds.
All things being equal, “The Visitant” should be a two out of ten in terms of production value, originality, and fright factor. Though someone accustomed to micro-budget quality and low expectations might just as easily give it an eight out of ten for effort alone. I split the difference and rate it right down the middle in considering both viewpoints. No matter which side of that line someone falls, “The Visitant” is still a play-it-safe approach to horror filmmaking. That may have been the smart decision for a paltry budget and limited resources, but Binkowski and his team should risk a more distinct style on their next picture to have a stronger shot at an audience taking notice.
Review Score: 50