Visitors (2003) / Thriller-Horror

MPAA Rated: R for language, violence, and disturbing images
Running Time: 89 min.

Cast: Radha Mitchell, Dominic Purcell, Susannah York, Ray Barrett, Tottie Goldsmith, Che Timmins, Steven Grives (voice)
Director: Richard Franklin
Screenplay: Everett De Roche
Review published May 1, 2005

Radha Mitchell (Phone Booth, Pitch Black) stars as Georgia Perry, a world-class yachtsman that has been given the chance to earn $160,000 for sailing around the world as a promotion for a line of women's products.  Some demons, perhaps inner demons, have begun to come on board to haunt her.  Madness may run in her family, as Georgia is being visited on board her isolated boat by several unsavory characters, including her mother (York, Superman), who herself was a delusional woman that ended up committing suicide in an asylum.  Not knowing if she is cracking up or legitimately seeing visions of the dead, Georgia tries to plow ahead with her mission, but the visitors are becoming more aggressive in their behavior, and she doesn't know if she will end up dead trying to keep them at bay.

Although marketed as a horror flick, Visitors is mostly a psychological drama with mild horror thriller elements, so take this into account before you embark on this one expecting some serious (or even cheesy) thrills and chills.  Director Richard Franklin (Cloak & Dagger, Road Games) puts aside his Hitchcockian homage tendencies for a more atmospheric character study revolving around a woman that must try to keep from hurting herself, despite the vividness of the disturbing images that she sees on a daily basis. 

While Franklin's direction is crisp and stylish and Mitchell performs admirably in the starring role, Visitors is still missing something substantial that keeps it from being anything more than an interesting mind game.  Part of the unevenness comes from the fact that Franklin doesn't appear to be able to decide just what kind of movie he wants to make here.  Is it a slick horror film?  Is it a twisty mystery?  Is it a drama about insanity?  While it touches on all three, the film never explores any of these elements sufficiently to fully satisfy in any particular direction.

Franklin also reveals a little too much in terms of Georgia's state of mind, such that it never really seems in much doubt whether or not she is crazy or if her visions are true most of the way.  Some red herrings get tossed in later in the film, but by that time, you've probably already forged your opinion sufficiently that you aren't likely to change your mind about it.  A bit more ambiguousness would definitely have gone a long way here. 

Visitors is enough of a teaser to keep you watching, although you keep anticipating that there should be more to the story than what you're actually seeing.  As the film approaches the end, you may find yourself waiting for that pay off to the 85 previous minutes of constant build up, but unfortunately, it comes as a disappointment to find the pay off had already come and went without you realizing it a few minutes before.  Like the heroine of the film, we see visions and horrifying images flash before our eyes, and while we are looking for something substantive to help us make sense of it all, the answers are too inconclusive to truly satisfy. 

-- The original theatrical cut runs 10 minutes longer than the video and cable versions.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo