Studio: Blumhouse Tilt
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writer: Lucas Sussman
Producer: Jason Blum
Stars: Isla Fisher, Anson Mount, Gillian Jacobs, Jim Parsons, Joanna Cassidy, Eva Longoria, Bryce Johnson, John de Lancie
A pregnant woman traumatized by a tragedy is haunted by horrific visions after starting a new life at a California vineyard.
One year after surviving a crash that took the life of a child in the other car, Eveleigh Maddox and her husband David purchase a vineyard hoping for a fresh start. Now pregnant with a baby of her own, Eveleigh’s ongoing anxiety trades trauma from that tragedy for stress from the supernatural, as Eveleigh thinks she and David may have inherited something evil.
Eveleigh can’t shake a sixth sense that something is haunting the house, or maybe it is haunting her. Terrifying visions and waking nightmares have Eveleigh’s mind racing with conspiracies of cults, ghosts, and the horrific history behind paranormal activity on her wine country property.
David thinks the hallucinations are in her head. Eveleigh’s doctor agrees. But what if they are part of the string-pulling plot that has the community exchanging sidelong glances and curious whispers? With only her newfound friend Sadie on her side, Eveleigh must dig deep to discover if it is demon, dementia, or something more menacing that has cursed her with these frightening feelings.
Conjecture and speculation surround stories behind virtually every Blumhouse Tilt release, where the marketing strategy for projects seems to be announcement, 2-3 years of dormancy, and then a quiet drop onto VOD platforms. Message board musings and online editorials wonder, “what happened to…?” before filling in blanks with assumptions of retooling, rethinking, repositioning, and other “re” words associated with how best to distribute around possible quality concerns.
“Visions” appears to be another casualty of unknown behind-the-scenes tinkering. With all cards played when end credits roll, “Visions” reveals a unique touch to its twist, but the weird way it gets there suggests its path wasn’t planned. Something intriguing swirls in the center of this script, but whatever movie “Visions” intended to be is not the movie it is.
Cast is the first clue. Supporting stars are staffed top to bottom with notable names from television, including Anson Mount, Gillian Jacobs, Eva Longoria, and Jim Parsons. Except the story onscreen has more players than it needs, with insignificant parts for familiar faces to fill. Consider an only 75-minute duration and “that’s it?” reactions to several appearances, and smart money says that for one reason or another, an editing room machete carved very wide paths through subplots, story, and complete characters.
If you’re wondering why a multiple Emmy-winner starring on a #1 network show would take a negligible doctor role for three minutes of screen time, rest assured that this almost certainly was not the original plan. Jim Parsons’ presence is so brief and so random, he may as well be wearing a suit of armor at a breakfast table.
Eva Longoria’s odd inclusion suffers a similar fate. A 2014 Deadline article identified Longoria’s intended role as “(Isla) Fisher’s fashionable, acerbic and funny city gal pal who disapproves of her friend’s life choices.” Longoria plays nothing that detailed, appearing more infrequently than Parsons. Of course, scripts go through revisions regularly, right up until the camera rolls. Yet the changes going on here are something else entirely.
Exhibit C: The third person met in the movie, following the two leads, is a vineyard farmer named Emilio. Emilio shows David some ranching ropes before suddenly communicating in Spanish once Eveleigh enters the scene. What might these men be up to? Emilio is noticeably center-framed in a subsequent party scene, where the camera specifically cuts to a solo shot of him three different times. Emilio delivers one more line and then… never appears again. Unless director/editor Kevin Greutert was stuck with limited options for cutaways, the only way it makes sense to feature this person so prominently is if he was supposed to serve a more important purpose at some point, not disappear immediately afterward.
The final cut “Visions” settles on ends up very vanilla. Much of the buildup is Isla Fisher shooting quizzical looks in various directions while Anson Mount serves as the dismissive husband insisting she is just seeing things. Gillian Jacobs soon sidles up as the relatable regular girl who becomes her extroverted best friend. It’s as though “Visions” wants to stereotype itself as overly familiar in a broad appeal way.
Eveleigh’s paranormal mystery then loads up on distractions involving a fertility cult, suspicions of an extramarital affair, even a possible meth lab being run on neighboring land. All of these ultimately unnecessary asides barely qualify as red herrings since they end up so far unrelated to what is actually happening, they could be swimming in a different lake.
What suspense the film has isn’t fully satisfying since fostering frustration in the audience is used as a tactic for tightening tension. As one example, take this dialogue exchange during the last act:
Eveleigh: “It’s tonight.”
Eveleigh: (entering another room) “It’s tonight.”
David: “What’s wrong sweetheart?”
Eveleigh: “We were wrong. We were wrong! It’s tonight! It’s tonight, David!”
David: “What are you talking about?”
Eveleigh: “David, it’s happening! It’s happening tonight! We need to leave!”
David: “Okay, just calm down.”
Eveleigh: “Everybody, we need to leave. We have to leave now!”
For crying out loud Eveleigh, just spit "it" out. It might not make better sense to have her run into the room and projectile vomit exposition all over everyone, but excessive use of cryptic “it’s” is a cheap way to draw out the reveal and add false franticness to the mystery.
“Visions” colors itself with shades of “Rosemary’s Baby” and a certain French horror film to tell its tale of pregnancy-related poltergeists. It manages to be more than a knockoff though because its supernatural twist is clever. I’m not sure I’ve seen this idea applied to a haunting backstory before.
The disappointment is that “Visions” gets there in such a choppy manner that one wonders what could have been, and what most likely was meant to be. While this version is lukewarm, I’d be interested to see “Visions” in whatever incarnation was originally envisioned, because I’m confident that would be more engaging and more entertaining as a movie.
Review Score: 50