‘The Visitor’ Brings New Meaning to Downer Horror

“The Visitor” turns the old saw, “you can’t go home again” on its head.

The thriller follows a couple returning to the bride’s hometown only to run into a complication. Some how, some way, the groom may have lived there before.

Or someone who looks just like him.

Confused? That’s part of the film’s early charm. Except the more we learn, the less we’re engaged by the disappointing shocker.

Robert (Finn Jones) and Maia (Jessica McNamee) ditch London to be closer to her Southern roots. They made the decision together and both seem at peace with the move until Robert finds something unsettling in their new home.

An oil painting, hidden away but in fine shape, features a man who looks very much like Robert. It’s a coincidence at worst, a funny story to share with others at best.

The strange happenings don’t end there.

The town folk greet Robert like a returning high school athlete or war hero. The southern hospitality is flattering, and then weird, until he sees another painting with his likeness on it.

What’s behind the paintings? And can simple kindness explain the locals’ affection for their new neighbors?

The couple in play brings plenty of baggage to their new home. They’re still reeling from a recent miscarriage, and her father’s death delivered a second emotional blow.

“The Visitor” is in no hurry to spill its secrets, but it’s hardly mesmerizing along the way. Scares are few – most involve disturbing dreams, an exhausted horror trope – and Maia’s frustration at Robert’s painting obsession is hardly edge-of-your-seat fare.

Can you blame him?

Supporting players add some texture, but it’s hardly enough to sustain our curiosity. Even the local clergyman (Dane Rhodes) offers little save boiler-plate prayers. We eventually get Mr. Expository Man, but even he lacks all the answers.

What is the secret behind “The Visitor?”

The final act should be unnerving, but director Justin P. Lange (“The Seventh Day”) unveils the final pieces without setting any new thrills in motion. The mood isn’t the problem. There’s some de factor haunted house creeps, shocking dreams and an unnerving sense that Robert is in some sort of peril.

It’s still not engaging in the way most thrillers deliver.

The film’s resolution offers enough to absorb without giving every last secret away, but it’s one of the most dissatisfying third acts in recent memory.

HiT or Miss: “The Visitor” offers an original premise and a solid leading turn, but the thrills never accumulate and the ending is a dud.

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