Night Visitor

February 24, 2011

Night Visitor makes a bid to be the kookiest horror movie of the year, and it may well end up with that distinction. For its first half-hour or so, it’s a straightforward teen horror flick, full of strained adolescent banter and some leering jokes about voyeurism.

In this section, a teen (Derek Rydall) watches intently as his new neighbor moves in. She’s a shapely, extremely friendly blonde (former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed) who seems to be a call girl. One night while Rydall is peeping into her window, he sees her murdered. The killer is wearing a devil mask. When it falls off, Rydall recognizes the perpetrator; it’s his history teacher!

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of wish-fulfillment going on here, in fantasies of high school teachers as demonic emissaries. At this point, Night Visitor takes a turn for the wacky, as it turns out the teacher (Allen Garfield) and his half-wit brother (Michael J. Pollard) are practicing Satanists. Garfield flounces around their home in a fire-red jogging suit while bossing his brother (“Praise Satan. Now start my kidney pie”). They also kidnap and chain up prostitutes in their basement, before sacrificing them in a room decorated with pentagrams and goats’ heads.

Garfield is a balding, rotund character actor who always brings an offbeat gleam to his work. The elfin Pollard, who gained fame (and a supporting actor Oscar nomination) for Bonnie and Clyde, is also a reliably peculiar performer. In their scenes together, they seem to be making an entirely different movie; blackly humored and subversive.

And the film isn’t even finished throwing curveballs. Arriving halfway through is a burned-out ex-cop (played by Elliott Gould) to help the young heroes prove they’re not just making the whole thing up.

Properly handled, Randal Viscovich’s screenplay might have had some fun possibilities. But Night Visitor is so ineptly and unevenly shot and acted that it’s pretty much a wash. When Garfield and Pollard are on screen, though, the film takes on a crazed grin.

First published in the Herald, May 1989

The cast also includes Henry Gibson and Richard Roundtree—well, sure it does, it’s that kind of movie. The IMDb entry on screenwriter Viscovich gives this movie as his sole credit, but under the “Trivia” section it says, “Mentor – Howard Hawks.” And I suppose we will never know more than that.


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