“Night Visitor” Creeping Onto Your Doorstep! Now on Blu-ray!
Never-on-time high school senior Billy Colton can’t seem to catch a break in arriving to class on time. To make matters worse, Billy makes up a lame excuse for every tardy to his surly history teacher, Mr. Willard. On thin ice with Mr. Willard with only a few weeks left to graduation, Billy must keep his nose clean in order to not make any more waves that’ll cost him his diploma. When a new, extremely sexy, call girl neighbor moves in next door, Billy becomes entranced by her casual sexual affairs. So much so, Billy sets up a telescope from out his bedroom window to spy on her and convince his naysaying friends of her profession by sneaking a rooftop picture catching her in the middle of a tryst. What Billy sees is his neighbor being stabbed to death and the culprit is none other than his history teacher, Mr. Willard, continuing his conducting of Satanic rituals and sacrifices on local prostitutes. Because of his reputation for making up stories, no one believes Billy, not even the police, and he’s forced to attend Mr. Willard’s class with both parties having the knowledge of what really occurred. Billy’s desperation sends him to seek the help of a retired detective, Ron Devereaux, a close friend of Billy’s late father, and extreme measures must be taken by Billy to prove a killer’s identity and to stop Mr. Willard from coming after him.
“Night Visitor” is the 80’s alteration of the classic Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The 1989 teen-campy cult horror is the first venture into feature length films by Rupert Hitzig, producer of “Wolfen” and “Jaws 3-D.” The twisted, modernized story derived from the fable was penned by Randal Viscovich to sought to provide nods to other films, one film in particular, “Fright Night,” shares a story parallel or likeness of an older teenage boy spying on the carnal rendezvouses of his alluring neighbor and ends up becoming involved in something far more sinister. At one point in time the film was under the working title, “Never Cry Devil,” a spin on the fable idiom cry wolf, Hitzig’s final product eventually landed on “Night Visitor” and the graphic nudity and cannibalism pared down for general audience consumption. Premier Picture Corporation served as the production company with Alain Silver (“Kiss Daddy Goodbye,” “Mortuary Academy”) producing, Randal Viscovich and Richard Abramites associate producing, and Tom Broadbridge (“The 13th Floor”) and Shelley E. Reid (“Nine Deaths of the Ninja”) as executive producers with United Artists serving as film rights distributor.
At the center of the story is a coinciding dual lead. One might be more prominent in the beginning, but the second soon catches up to run alongside in an even dichotomy of good and evil. Derek Rydall (“Popcorn”) plays into the stereotype of a hang loose teenage boy named Billy Colton on the edge of adulthood with a penchant for voyeurism as he spies on the late-night sexual commerce of her blonde bombshell neighbor. Rydall introduces mis makings of an energized, poofy-haired hunk who might be a little bit naive as a closeted peeping tom and looks to score with an older woman despite exhibiting and declaring feelings for his longtime friend Kelly (Teresa Van der Woude, “Killer Workout”). Who can blame Billy when Billy’s new neighbor was a Playboy Playmate? Shannon Tweed (“Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death”, “Of Unknown Origins”) seduces, arouses, and paints by the numbers in what she does best – to be the sexiest woman on screen. Having never really dug herself out of being typecasted, Tweed humble horror beginnings is about the extent of her range before being cornered in the sex-thriller market and the Playmate of the Year 1982 is great fun to watch onscreen as her sex-working-kittenishness character, Lisa Grace, causes Billy Colton to steam in his pants. As much as it was a joy to watch Rydall and Tweed chart a possible older woman, younger man fling (fun fact: Tweed was supposedly playing a 26-year-old but was actually 31-32 and very much looks her age in the film), I thought Allen Garfield (“Diabolique”) and Michael J. Pollard (“Scrooged”) as brothers rollicking as Satan acolytes or rather just Garfield’s character Mr. Willard is the Satanist and Pollard as brother Stanley is just insane and fancies mentally manipulating the furniture as he calls the working girls him and his brother abduct and hold in the basement. Pollard is absolutely demented! All of the snarky quirks, plus a slew of scampish facial expressions and remarks, turn the fun-loving eccentric into a total maniac of truly scary proportions. Garfield’s method approach offers a different kind of demented, one that’s calculating and cunning to counter his brother’s outward lunacy. “Night Visitor” rounds out the cast with more gifted, recognizable talent in Elliot Gould (“Dead Men Don’t Die”), Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”), Scott Fults (“Hide and Go Shriek”), Brooke Bundy (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), Henry Gibson (“The ‘burbs”), and adult film actress Teri Weigel giving Shannon Tweed a run for her money in the skinemax department as the basement-bound prostitute.
If you had told me “Night Visitor” was a strictly a chilling cut thriller, I would have not believed you and would recommend psychiatric help. Aside from the opening scene of a hooker being violently snatched and grabbed into a gothic black car, “Night Visitor” has the hallmarks of a teen comedy amped up on sex-driving hormones, teenage melodramatic antics, and parades light-hearted teen comedy up until throats are slit, chests, are daggered and Michael Pollard wildly wields a chainsaw with an impish grin. The blithe spirit soon turns dark and grim as the carefree attitude of the hero goes toe-to-toe with stern and Satanic teacher, a wonderfully metaphorical relationship to the extreme that’s universally relatable as everyone has had an encounter with a discontented classroom instructor at least once growing up. Surprisingly stark how bleak the film turns, an overwhelming sense of dread lingers after that second prostitute meets her maker in a ghastly way that, as far as kills go, isn’t very radical but the true nature of the subject matter is shaded so well that the moment literally hooks you into the story as you start to connect what just might happen next to the new neighbor. One aspect that felt lacking was that there isn’t much depth to the Willard brothers’ Satanism; a few upside-down pentagrams, a goat’s head, Baphomet’s goat head statue, a topless sacrifice with chant, and Allen Garfield’s robe and elaborate horned masked, which is an excellent design, are all the thin layer of thematic elements but still retains sufficiently the Willards connection to Satanism. Whenever the story moves from Billy Colton’s obsession to expose Mr. Willard, much of the narrative then focuses on the interrelationship of Zachary and Stanley Williard which is mostly a nonaggressive superior and subordinate kinship. Stanley, who caters to Zachary’s every request and even squeezes for him fresh orange juice, plays along with his brother’s inadequate display of being a disciple just to get his own malevolent kicks out of tormenting women of the night. There’s this unexplained fixation with prostitutes that puts forward less a Satan worshipper and puts forward more a pair of mania driven maniacs quenching a thirst for blood by offing the lower class of society that no one will miss. A brief scene backs up this theory of an angry prostitute chewing Captain Crane’s ear off about protecting the girls on the street and he just casually strolls along, waving her off as if to say, yeah whatever.
Ronin Flix, in association with MGM and Scorpion Releasing, urges you to never cry wolf in this tale of terror as “Night Visitor” lands on a Blu-ray home video, distributed by MVD Visual. The 1080p, high-definition release comes with a brand 2019 transfer master that’s clean as Mr. Willard’s rap sheet with no 35mm celluloid impurities, no aged wear or tear, and a healthy amount of unadulterated grain, presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Color grading has excellent appeal and defines the natural color palette greatly amongst the delineated details and appeasing textures. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo is on the only audio mix on the release and while it provides clean and clear dialogue track, the depth is often disproportion to the characters on screen. Much of the dialogue is in the forefront channel of the dual outputs, making every sentence feel closer than it should actually be in the stationary location of the character. Other than that, transfer’s hyper free of hiss, pops, and other audio blights. Option SDH subtitles are available. Bonus content has the original theatrical trailer and brand-new interview with director Ruport Hitzig, editor Glenn Erickson, and writer Randal Viscovich who all share a commonality regarding “Night Visitor,” the story was trimmed down of all of Viscovich’s nasty bits and shocking ending and made more upbeat for a better sell. Physically, “Night Visitor” comes in the traditional blue snapper keep case with brilliant red and illustratively glowing cover art of the sacrificial mask. The back cover claims the cover art is reversible, but it is not. The Blu-ray is region A encoded, has a runtime of 93 minutes, and is rated R. The cast alone is worth the price of admission as “Night Visitor” preys on the inculpability of Satan’s most righteous worshipper and on the power position of a role model with a secret life who has it out for the boy who cried wolf too many times.