The Visitor (2022) is a psychological horror film following a man who mysteriously discovers an old portrait in the attic of someone who looks just like him. Directed by Justin P. Lange, the film is one of the latest in a modern string of restrained folk horror films.
Lack of Nuance: The Visitor drowns out any potential nuance through an altogether boring experience. Without a real figure to drive the horror, the film tries to develop an underlying sense of distrust among its relatively small cast, but the results are murky. So wanting for an antagonist that one of its shocking reveals is a lineup of frogs. Sometimes you watch a film and want it to stop being so buttoned-up.
An Effort Was Made: While it may not be very successful in its goals, its faults don't lie in its construction. For what it's worth, the slow-burning images can be pretty to look at; there's an old, beautiful New England-type manor the lead characters move to, and the filmmakers knew how to make use of its architecture naturalistic lighting in order to bring what are the film's best visuals to life. Unfortunately, this setting doesn't account for much — if any — of the film's attempts at terror, and the forays out into the rest of the world feel relatively cheap in comparison. Finn Jones and Jessica McNamee also feel like they're putting proper work into their characters, picking up and interpreting what the script itself lacks so that the movements of their emotions feel right and earned among the story's progression. Many, many horror movies shoot themselves in the foot by neglecting both of this film's strongest aspects for any number of reasons, so it was refreshing to watch a 'bad' movie feel somewhat professional. This is a Blumhouse production, after all; whatever your opinion of their productions, you can reasonably assume the company brings a level of experience in bringing theater-quality experiences to the small screen. However, there are more than a couple of cheap-feeling jumpscares that seem to test whether or not you're still paying attention.
Familiar Territory: The Visitor's primary problem is that its story is likely one you've experienced in one way, shape, or form through any other number of movies that have come before it. What's more is that this is hardly a gripping incarnation of supernatural, generational possession. I respect when these kinds of movies opt for slow-rolling its set up in order to build character and suspense, but it quickly falls apart when as a viewer you realize the film doesn't have much by way of either. Finn Jones can't save this story's pacing issues, especially when the mystery isn't as compelling as insisted. It isn't a particularly bloody or violent horror film, but you're left wanting some type of action by the time the second act has come and gone. The answer to the mystery isn't very satisfying or coherent, and all it does is set up a downbeat ending that I would like more if I had any attachment to the characters. The evil at the center of The Visitor is standard; there is practically nothing setting it apart from its influences or contemporaries.
The Visitor is a mish-mash of other better folk and supernatural horror films that had better-written characters and more exciting events to put them through. One can applaud the restraint in this film's storytelling, then must ask yourself (as a filmmaker), how do you make a story about a man spending a little over an hour getting freaked out by static paintings an enjoyable experience? This film is pretty, but there's barely anything going on at all beneath its top layers.
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