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‘The Visitor’ wears out its welcome with weak execution

Horror movies are filled with tropes. Those tropes contribute to the lack of critical acclaim for the genre as a whole, but they are also largely what make it popular. There is a twisted kind of comfort that comes from watching a movie and having some idea how it’s going to go.

The “Scream” series has been successful largely based on exposing those tropes and then performing them well. The trope that I am the biggest sucker for is any kind of demon possession or antichrist type theme. When I saw the plot summary for Justin P. Lange’s “The Visitor,” currently streaming on Amazon Prime, I thought it looked like it would hit the spot.

When Robert (Finn Jones) and Maia (Jessical McNamee) suffer a miscarriage, they decide to move back to Maia’s childhood home in Briar Glen. As they are cleaning out the house, Robert discovers a painting with a central character who looks strikingly like him. As he finds his way around Briar Glen, the members of the community treat him with a kind of reverent awe, and he sees more paintings with his doppelganger in them.

While he and Maia discover that she is expecting again, the town begins to experience a number of unexplained deaths. Something is going on in this quiet southern town, but in order to find out what it is, Robert will need to face some hard truths and find out who the man in the paintings really is.

The premise for this movie is really fascinating. It is a great twist on the possession story that we’ve seen played out over and over. But while the idea is great, the execution falters quite a bit.

The performances in this are not fantastic. Everyone feels more like a caricature than an actual character. And while there is a film where this kind of performance might have worked, this was not the one. I wanted there to be anything believable about the characters, but they felt so hackneyed in their presentation that I just couldn’t connect.

Story-wise, it didn’t fare much better. As I mentioned before, the idea is really solid. But writers Simon Boyes and Adam Mason seemed to want to infuse more meaning into the story than it was able to support, and the whole thing just collapsed. I think if the themes had played out organically, it could have really worked, but as it was, it just fell flat to me.

Everything in this movie felt like it was trying too hard. The actors were trying too hard to be compelling and they ended up feeling like cartoons. The script was trying too hard to be meaningful and it ended up feeling nonsensical. The horror was trying too hard to be scary and it ended up feeling boring.

Certainly, we want movies where people are trying to do a good job, but at some point, you have to trust what you have. This movie didn’t trust in itself, and it suffered for it.

ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. She reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.