Movie Review: VISITATIONNamesake Entertainment

“There’s a lot of evil in this town, but it’s not me. I’m just trying to help.”

There’s trouble a’brewin’ in the town of Antioch when three strangers appear bearing the simple message of “he is coming.” Turns out the “he” is a soft-spoken, seemingly kind drifter that has the power to heal everyone who touches him. Only a cynical former minister isn’t buying it. And when the entire town falls under the spell of this would-be new Messiah, it seems there’s more to this guy than a taste for flannel and a serious need for hair conditioner. See, his powers of healing are real. But, the big question is, where is he getting this power from? All this and more, on the next Town Talk!

Sorry about that little obscure reference at the end there. If you caught that, congratulations. You get to drink from the fire hose.

I had to watch this movie twice. Mainly because The Visitation is my favorite novel from Frank Peretti, and one of the rare fiction books I’ve read more than once. I love the story, as it resonates within me on a deep level. This is mainly due to the fact that I can completely relate to the main character, the widowed former preacher Travis. Almost everything he’s experienced as a Christian I have as well. This is why, when I first watched the movie, I kept mentally going through the novel itself, comparing the major differences between the movie and the source material. Which meant, I missed a good majority of the movie itself. Had to re-watch, it was necessary…

And since going through all of the differences will take waaaaaay too much time and web space, all I’ll say is, the movie is almost and entirely different entity than the book. Those of you who’ve read the book, you’ll understand. Those of you who haven’t…well, go read the book. It’s a great read. Anyhoo…

The movie itself is actually fairly decent. Edward Furlong does a great job as the would-be new messiah Brandon Nichols, working both the charming harmless type, then getting you with a dark and sinister angle that can catch any lesser mortal off guard. The character of Travis was handled fairly well, although the idea to have his wife die by the hands of satanists instead of cancer like in the book had me raise an eyebrow, but I guess they had to have something tie into that “every three years” thing. Everyone does a fairly decent job, with the possible exception of Randy Travis, who puts in a very wooden performance. It was maybe a bit too obvious that he was going for a Billy Graham look and feel to his character, as he had everything down from his three-piece suit to his quaffed hair. Didn’t work very well, though. Rather would have gone more of the Kyle that was in the book- youthful, zealous, and always blurted out pat Christian-isms without first thinking about it. That was the big thing, there was no tension between Travis and Kyle here.

Also, the biggest downfall of the movie came with the fact that, in order to get things down to a bare 90 minutes, they left out a lot of what made me care about the character of Travis in the book. Namely, there’s not much to go with as far as anything that made me care much about his movie counterpart. You start off with some nifty CGI newspaper clipping montages that hint at his wife’s death, then boom. He’s a soused up former preacher who doesn’t believe in God anymore, and his dog just died of distemper.

While this is a movie based on a Frank Peretti novel, those thinking about using this as a “movie night” for a lesson in Bible class might want to rethink things. It’s PG-13 for a reason. It’s pretty intense, as movies go. Make no doubt about it, this is a true Christian gothic horror movie, and while there’s very little blood, no cursing, no sexual situations whatsoever, and it’s pointed out that “Jesus Christ is very real”, it still is very shocking. This is something that I personally go for, as I too aspire to produce Christian horror, but many will be shocked if they don’t know what they’re getting into.

In the end, though, I found the movie version of The Visitation to be much, much better than what I was expecting. This could very well be one of those rare instances where Christian horror gels effectively. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and expect it to be relatively close to the source material. You’ll then have to watch it more than once…