This is the ninth in a recurring series I will be doing highlighting obscure, unknown, forgotten and underrated horror movies. The goal is to bring to light great horror of yesterday and today that just is not on most people’s radar. Just assume spoilers will be included. Enjoy.
It will not come as a sudden shock to most horror fans when I say that Italian horror is a special kind of insanity that you don't come across often in the world of horror or cinema in general. From mind bending Giallo’s like Dario Argento’s classics The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red to Lucio Fulci’s Zombi inspired franchise or even the very extreme titles like Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus. You know when you're watching an Italian horror flick, whether it's the bananas premise that you get lost in, or the bizarre way of telling a story which will have you scratching your head for the duration, or most importantly, the rocking soundtrack that will have you bobbing your head throughout, most notably by the band Goblin which did soundtracks most famously for Suspiria.
Of all these insane Italian horror flicks, which is the most insane? Which one is the most WTF of them all? The answer to that question is one that you wouldn't expect in the slightest and a film that most of you are unaware of, unless you follow me on Twitter and hear me scream about it on a near constant basis. The most insane Italian horror film of all time is 1979’s The Visitor which is not directed by Argento, Fulci or either of the Bavas and has an intense soundtrack that is not done by Goblin nor does it include Iron Maiden. There are also no zombies, demons, hellbeast, or Satan only a little girl from Atlanta and her name is Katy Collins, and she’ll be 8 years old…
Have you Ever Watched The Visitor? No? OMG, let me tell you about it.
You see, there has been a cosmic battle raging for centuries between Zateen, the embodiment of all evil in the universe who has powerful psychokinetic powers and his arch rival, the good, the pure, the benevolent Yahweh. During one of these battles Zateen escaped from the planet Earth and although Yahweh found his demon ass and smote him in a way only a God could smite, Zateen’s life force energy still lives on in the hearts and souls of mankind, dormant, waiting for the opportune moment to reawaken and cause chaos. Before his ultimate demise, Zateen hooked up with tons of Earth girls (rumor has it they are easy) and his descendants continue to populate Earth to this day. The ultimate goal being, for a certain Earth woman to birth a son, this son will impregnate his half-sister who will give birth to the reborn physical incarnation of Zateen. The designated bearer of Zateen is none other than Katy Collins and she’ll be 8 years old…
Queue the intense music and shocked look from cult leader and acting legend Franco Nero:
Seriously, once you watch the movie you'll understand the whole, “Her name is Katy Collins, and she’s 8 years old”. It’s probably one of the most intense scenes in the whole movie. And yeah, just so you know, that whole bit about Zateen and Yahweh and the fate of the universe? That’s all covered in the first 3 minutes of the film! Some horror buff may come to you and tell you that Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the most insane Italian horror film of all time or maybe Hercules in the Haunted World and they would be incorrect 3 minutes into The Visitor. Not only do they outline that bonkers premise for a movie but they do so with a crazy, lava lamp looking interplanetary meeting between a hooded figure and Jerzy Colsowicz who is played by acting legend John Huston. Let’s take a minute and look at this cast.
Other than John Huston who has been acting since the 1920’s in movies with Humphrey Bogart and in one of the Planet of the Apes movies there is Western legend Franco Nero who plays Jesus H. Christ. Lance Henriksen who plays Katy’s stepfather, Atlanta Falcons owner and Satanic cult leader, Glen Ford who plays a detective investigating a crime I’ll discuss shortly, Shelly Winters as the suspicious nanny, who’s also been acting since the 1920’s and has a list of acting credentials too long to name. And finally, Kareem Abdul Jabar. What an amazing cast!
Yeah, a movie that starts with Zateen in multidimensional cosmic space is only going to escalate to birds vs demons, what else would you expect? Any way, one day at Katy’s birthday someone swaps one of her presents for a gun that she pulls out and shoots her mother in the spine causing her to be paralyzed. This is the crime Glen Ford is investigating and when he questions Katy she says, “Go fuck yourself you damned pedophile”. AMAZING!
Here’s the Satanic cabal’s plot, Katy’s mother isn't ready for a child so they get a gun to Katy who shoots her in the back. Next, they mess with her car so it breaks down on the side of the road and she is forced to call AAA or something but the people who come out to help with the car are Satanists who kidnap the paralyzed woman, take her to a weird hospital and impregnate her with Lance Henriksen’s demon seed. Meanwhile, John Huston’s character has traveled all the way to Atlanta to stop all this from happening. What has he been doing while all this tomfoolery has been going on you may ask? Well he has a group of bald guys build curtains on the roof of a building in the middle of the city that somehow act as inter-dimensional gateways. They show the construction all throughout the film but nothing ever comes of it.
Seriously, I have watched this movie 100 times and I have no damned clue. The cop is killed, the mother goes to her ex-husband, Katy’s father, who suggests an abortion. Lance Henriksen and Katy get pissed and try to kill the mother by ramming her into a fish tank and pushing her down the stairs with a noose wrapped around her neck, but John Huston appears, with a flock of birds and thwarts the evil off, killing Lance, with bird, and extracting the evil from Katy. The Satanic cabal is shown to have also died and in the final scene Katy is shown, shaved head, in the comfort of Franco Nero aka Jesus Christ. No longer plagued by the evil of Zateen and humanity saved. It is most clear in the third act of this film that logical writing has left the building and only schizophrenic ramblings remain.
This movie is all over the place insane, this article only covers the main points of the movie and does not include half the crazy stuff like the Satanic riot or the ice skating massacre. The pace of this film is incredible, typically 70’s movies are slower but this thing is one LSD induced idea to the next in quick succession all backed by one of the most amazing soundtracks of all time by Franco Micalizzi and the Big Bubbling Band. When this film was re-released by Drafthouse the trailer included one of the most accurate quotes about this film ever made:
“The Mount Everest of Insane Italian Horror Films”
Shudder just recently removed this amazing film from its catalog but it can be found streaming on Amazon, Tubi and Vudu. Hell, there’s even a bootleg of the whole movie streaming on a random YouTube account.
Find this movie. Watch this movie. Love this movie forever. Tell all your friends about this movie. And if you need any more convincing, here’s the trailer.
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