Movie Review

The Visitation

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, violence/terror and disturbing images

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Science Fiction, Thriller, Drama, Horror, Christian
Length:
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
January 20, 2006 (select theaters)
DVD premiere: February 28, 2006
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What about the Psalm 91 promises? (“…no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent…”) Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Demon

Satan

Devil

Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

Demon Possession and Influence—Can Christians be demon possessed? In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers? Answer

Exorcism

Prophet

Christ

Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?

Are you going to Heaven?
Featuring: Martin Donovan, Edward Furlong, Kelly Lynch, Randy Travis, Richard Tyson, Priscilla Barnes, Noah Segan, Hillary Tuck
Director: Robby Henson
Producer: Bobby Neutz, Ralph Winter, Philip Hurn
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Everyone has their demons”

“The more we know about our adversary, the less power he has to influence us. Satan doesn’t want us to know he exists, he’s outnumbered, he’s been defeated, his tricks are basic and tried and we don’t have to fear him.” —Pastor Bob Coy

“‘The Visitation’ is about a crisis of faith, and one man’s coming of age as a believer in Jesus. It is fiction, but honest. It is a searching of my own heart and a sharing of what I found with my readers. As such it is the most difficult book I have ever written. I hope you enjoy it.” —Frank E. Peretti

I read this book several years ago and after seeing the DVD I believe that, even with the time constraints of film, it tells the story that Peretti was reaching for. No one lays out the spiritual battle between believers and the devil in these last days better than Frank Peretti. He writes Christian fiction that deals with supernatural themes and demonic influences which is most spellbinding. In movie form ‘The Visitation’ has the feel, but not the force, of Peretti’s novel. This is not due to lack of great special effects or terrific acting, but because of low budget and cuts in the editing room to make it a leaner film for distribution. Too bad more financial input couldn’t be endowed, because this project is a worthy one.

Travis Jordon (Martin Donovan) is the former pastor of a Pentecostal Church lying in the cozy hillside town of Antioch, Washington. His reasons for leaving the ministry cut deep into his soul. His beloved wife was brutally abducted and murdered three years ago, and the trauma of that one event sent him questioning God and even denouncing his faith.

As Travis drowns himself in self pity and beer, a new menace hovers over Antioch that to some seems Heaven sent, but to a chosen few who know scripture well and believes it without question, like the good Pastor Kyle Sherman (played most convincingly by Randy Travis), this cloud of powerful mystery is demonic to the core.

As Kyle Sherman and various towns folk encounter the itinerant loaner Brandon Nichols (welcome back Edward Furlong) the “miracles” in his path snowballs Antioch residents into a growing spiritual frenzy.

As more and more people are healed, seemingly miraculously, by Brandon from their ills, Pastor Sherman gets more and more uneasy. He calls a board meeting between all town clergy and invites Travis, the uncaring skeptic, for his view from the other side of the pulpit.

After this meeting, Travis stirs from his apathy towards God and with the help of the new Vet in town, Morgan Elliot (a strong, no nonsense performance by Kelly Lynch), fully investigates Brandon Nichols’ horrific past. This man is more than a guy looking to form a cult. He has help from a darker existence more sinister than the dumbstruck town’s people can see.

Travis, Kyle and Morgan soon find out that while Brandon Nichols does indeed command supernatural powers, they are not working on the side of God.

As Antioch struggles under the weight of the devil and his advocates, this spiritual battleground becomes your own home town. Travis and the only two people he can trust race against time to convince the whole town of the reality of evil forces and battle to bring it to its ultimate defeat.

“The Visitation” rekindles the scare tactics of “The Ring” and the special effects used for the demon-coming-out-of-the-guy we first saw in “The Green Mile”, and I especially liked the nod to “CSI” as the plucky Vet uses a CAT Scan to read the mysterious story hidden behind the black paint on a newspaper.

“The Visitation” does deliver horror movie frights, but they are more Hitchcockian than Wes-Cravenish. We feel more of a disturbing feeling, rather than the desire to scream. If you are looking for total blood and gore, then this is not the movie for you. But, if you are looking for a well-balanced film, that has some very important biblical relevance within the fictional, here it is.

There is no profanity, sex or nudity, yet parents must be very aware that any child under the age of 13 should not view it alone, and any child younger than 10 should not see it at all because of the graphic violence which includes: intensely frightening imagery, child abuse, a boy is shown being crucified by his demonic father (the boy does not die, however): though this is brutal, careful attention has been taken not to be excessive. We see photos of a dead woman who has been tortured; a dog dies and is buried. Several scenes feature arguing and loud rants by the demonic figure. A teenage boy is seen supernaturally stuck to a wall and violently spinning around. There are a couple of guns and some explosions; also blood—and at least two people are shown or referred to as dead.

The character of the former pastor is shown drinking beer, driven by his grief and inability to cope. Without Jesus as his refuge, he finally learns that denying his faith and drinking to excess is no match for the shelter and protection that Jesus does provide.

The film deals reasonably accurately with at least two subjects. One being how demonic forces can manipulate the physical world in a way that seems to produce momentary results (depicted in the film as a sort of demonic electro-magnetic field). Cults use this practice, and people seem healed at the onset only to have a relapse some time later. In “The Visitation” we see people getting healed, actually becoming possessed, only to return to their former conditions, leaving them dependant upon these demonic beings to keep them “whole.” Secondly, “The Visitation” dealt accurately with how the Kyle character exorcised demons. He took the authority in Christ by saying “…and Jesus said, come out of him you unclean spirit.” Giving the authority to Christ to deal with the devil and not relying on ourselves is purely scriptural in basis.

I also must mention this film depicted how the so-called “normal” churches dwindled down to only a few in attendance while everyone else went after the “miracles.” We must be extremely vigilant these days in spotting the real, God-given miracles from the false ones provided by the devil. In these last days, it is crucial we teach and understand the difference and not follow every guy who comes along looking like Christ. These people are truly dangerous, and “The Visitation” exposes where their power really comes from.

Along the wild ride, Peretti’s story delivers plenty of action, scary moments and lots of mystery. I liked the jagged, misframed shots. That helped move the story along and conjured up the Peretti-style of the unusual ride into the spiritual unknown. For the person who has never read Mr. Peretti’s novel, “The Visitation” will intrigue, because trying to figure out what will happen next helps drive the movie. For audiences that have been spoiled by regal special effects, the film may not be up to their usual standards, but that isn’t why we come to see this film. It is its spiritual/emotional impact that hooks us.

Featuring a seasoned cast who do a fine job, “The Visitation” gives us an interesting mix of secular and Christian actors along with an excellent production crew (Ralph Winters, Bobby Henson, Brian Godawa).

I must say, however, normally Frank Peretti defines evil in terms that make perfect sense in his novels and being the producer, the script by Brian Godawa (“To End All Wars”) must have passed his desk several times during production, but I was disappointed not to find a solid resolution of the characters to come to Jesus in the script form. I wish Mr. Peretti had taken a stand on this point. There were so many opportunities to give Jesus the front seat that fear and demonic powers were given. It should have been mentioned that Jesus is the true Messiah, especially to the teenaged son who fell so quickly in with the deceptive powers of the devil. The Vet character was depicted as an obvious non-believer who spouted, ‘We’re just not ‘church’ people.’ It would have been so satisfying to see her delivered in the end.

Jesus Himself told us all what will happen in the final days before His appearing. How wonderful to know what to look for and how to be patient until the end. How great a thing it is to be able to be taught by The Master Himself. So that there will be no questions, no doubts as to His being among us, look to the Word:

Acts 1:11—The Angel tells the men of Galilee (who represent all humanity) exactly how Jesus will return. Not as some self-proclaimed healer tucked away in a revival tent known only to a select few. He will return just the way they saw Him go up into Heaven, from the clouds “In like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.” All will be witness to this event.

1 Thess. 4:15-16—“For The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the Trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first…” Intense is not even a word that can describe that.

2 Timothy 4:1 instructs us to “Preach The Word, be it in season or out of season (whether or not it’s the kool thing to do); reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and…” listen to this part and see if it doesn’t sound like the people of today, the people of Antioch: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers… and they shall turn away their ears from The Truth, and shall be turned to fables.”

Had he the strength 2 Timothy 4:5 should have been Travis’ Banner—“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

I wish Namesake Entertainment could have given this film just a little more screen time to develop the characters. As I remember them, they were much more alive and inspired of God. In the end of “The Visitation” movie, a Bible was thrown in the path of a dagger to save Morgan from the evil Brandon, but how much better to give Jesus a big part here! If we could see the evil eyes of the devil through those who were possessed, what a “wow” moment we could have had if we saw Jesus’ hand stopping the devil’s dagger rather than just the Bible on it’s own.

Who was Brandon Nichols? Would you be able to tell him apart from The Christ? Wanna know how? Read on and imagine you are sitting beside Jesus on the Mount of Olives as He tells you Himself!

Matthew 24:4-26: “Take heed no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ’ and shall deceive many… many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

Brandon did a good job of deception, just as Our Lord will tell you in verse 23, so do take heed.

“Then if any man shall say unto you, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘there is Christ,’ believe it not! For there shall arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, in so much that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect… if they say unto you, ‘behold he is in the desert,’ go not forth, ‘behold he is in the secret chambers,’ believe it not!”

So, sorry Brandon old buddy, but we know what His appearing will be like, because He has described it for us in His Word—no tent poles, or electro shock—no secrets and no mystery, just in-your-face Glory:

‘For His lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west—so shall the Coming of The Son of Man be!’

‘Jesus is the constant. He will still be there, no matter what happens. I want “The Visitation” to be that which helps people to sort out the difference between relationship and religion.’
—Frank E. Peretti

Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Positive
Positive—Things are happening in the small town of Antioch. Miracles and manifestations are taking place, and it seems a stranger who resembles and claims to be the Messiah has all the answers. Are these the works from a savior or from Satan incarnate? That is what Travis Jordan, a down and out preacher who lost his wife in a brutal murder, and Morgan Elliot, a veterinarian who recently moved from San Francisco, whose son is taken in by this mysterious self proclaimed deity, must find out in order to save their souls, their loved ones and the town in this supernatural spectacular, The Visitation based on the book by acclaimed author Frank Peretti.

Jordan, played by “Saved!” and “Agent Cody Bank”’s star Martin Donovan, is called back to the church by his former associate pastor and friend Kyle Sherman, portrayed by Country Singing Superstar and “The Long Ride Home” actor, Randy Travis, to help a church council figure out these strange miraculous signs. Reluctantly, Travis agrees to the meeting but is not willing to stick his neck out to help until things get too close to home. It is then his personal investigation leads him to a charismatic visitor with the gift of healing named Brandon Nichols, played by T2’s Edward Furlong, that the townspeople are drawn to—including Jordan’s resurrected dog.

Among Nichols’ converts are the town sheriff Brett Henchle, played by “Last Flight Out”’s Richard Tyson, his spiritually animated wife Dee, wonderfully portrayed by “Three’s Company”’s alumni, Priscilla Barnes, and Morgan’s son, Michael, depicted by Noah Segan. Because of her son’s involvement in Nichols’ commune, Morgan, played by Roadhouse and Curly Sue’s actress, Kelly Lynch, feels the need to get involved in the investigation. However, with so many obstacles in their way from Nichols’ converts along with his three mysterious and dangerous associates, Travis, Morgan and Kyle will find out the truth about Brandon or die trying.

If “The Visitation” is any indication of the future of Christian films, then the main stream market better hang on to their hats. The Visitation is definitely an edge of your seat, nail biting good movie. But how can you go wrong with great storytelling from one of the masters of great storytelling, Peretti. With all that aside, all the actors were wonderful but the two that really stood out were Furlong and Travis.

Furlong’s portrayal of the deceiving and manipulative Nichols was so convincing he epitomized evil. His fox like facial features (say that ten times fast) and his slithering soft-spoken voice also helped to make his performance so believable. As for Travis, his confident Kyle Sherman came across so convincingly, you would have to wonder if he was somehow transformed as a man confident in Christ or that Travis, himself, was telling people in his own way that to overcome such evil or any other overwhelming obstacle, trust in the power and love of God. Look for strength through Jesus. He will carry you through it. It’s that confidence that Travis magnificently conveyed in his role is what every believer should strive for.

All in all, “The Visitation” was a good, suspenseful, supernatural treat. What was even nicer is that it didn’t hide the story with a bunch of special effects like a lot of movies like this would do. It just relied on story. And with seasoned actors like Lynch, Travis, Furlong and a host of others, the story was fantastically told. However, I would not recommend real young children to see this; hence the reason for the PG-13 rating, but for any adult who likes the Stephen Kingish type of storytelling told with a positive message, this is the movie for you. Visit “The Visitation” if you dare. On a grading scale, I give “The Visitation” an A.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
My Ratings:Good / 4½
—John DeYoung

Positive—“The Visitation” shows how easy it would be to mislead most people, including most ‘clergy.’ In our times, we find many searching for something, for someone to believe in. This film also shows that there is a price to doing things Satan’s way. When the LORD healed people, it was total, and it was ‘finished.’ This film shows that Satan’s way does not last and actually, one is worse off then before.

I do doubt, however, that those who do not know the Word of GOD would really understand what is happening, but I would recommend it for those who do understand—as a way to explain the truth to non-Christians, that being, that Satan will often come as an angel of light and that someday… soon, he will come as the Messiah. The best way to avoid this: KNOW THE WORD OF GOD!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Pastor Ken Deemer, age 59

Positive—As a big Peretti fan, I was excited to see this film. The Visitation was one of the first of his works I had read. As a fan, I was not let down. I loved this film and now consider it the best Christian movie to come out. Not only is there no suggestive themes, profanity, or excessive amount of violence, but they actually use the name of Jesus! This is what excited me the most. Not only that, but a Spirit-filled preacher is finally shown in a positive light! As the son of a Pentecostal Minister, this impressed me greatly.

The only thing I would caution parents about is the intensity of the film. There is a brief scene of a crucifixion, but you don’t see any blood or gore. Also, the crucifix is used as a symbol that the villain uses as a sign of his coming as the “Messiah.” This could be view as offensive to some, but was not to me. The only other thing is at the end, the villain says 'Go to h***, but he meant it in the right term. I highly recommend this film for ages 12 and up!
My Ratings: Good / 4
Jacob Airey, age 17
Neutral
Neutral—I really enjoyed most of the movie. The evil shown throughout the movie depicted the sin of the characters very well. I felt though that although violence and sin are needed to show sin, in order to make a truly Christian movie, God must be the focus, not Satan or demons. This is what was done. There are two ways to show Christ to others. In love, ministering to their needs and citing God’s Word so others will know him. “The Visitation” did that only minimally, near the end. It was more like any other scary, demonic movie instead. I believe they wanted to make a good Christian movie. But a good one would have to be Victorious, not just or only make me think there might be a real God. But, that when I have viewed the movie, I either want to really know God, and or I want to have a closer walk with him.…
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Blanca Sizemore, age 43
Neutral—This is the reason that people shy away from “Christian” movies. The acting was bad, bad, bad and was too predictable. The story line was at best jumpy, going from one scene to the next and not really making sense. I am a big movie buff, with over 350 in my collection, and I realize that we need more good Christian movies, but this one is not it. The meaning of the story is there, but the movie is just not well done, and without quality no one will want to see another one like it.
My Ratings: Good / 2
Larry Barber, age 43
Negative
Negative—Let me start by saying that I am a Frank Peretti fan; I have every one of his adult books. But I have to say that this was a poor job of adapting this book to a movie. The book was amazing, but it seems as though all of the things that were so compelling in the book have been left out.

First of all, Brandon’s character was not creepy from the get-go in the book. It was a slower transformation—before Brandon started making the Jesus references there was actually time for the reader to really wonder—is this a good guy or not? Also, the different denominations were well represented in the book, which involved most of them coming together to help out. Morgan’s character was also given so much more of a history. Originally, she was a pastor with some New Age tendencies that explain why her son was in the mess he was in to begin with. I don’t know if the producers yanked her pastor credentials and made her a vet so as not to offend more conservative people, but that makes no sense when you are dealing with a movie that deals with stuff that a lot of conservatives denominations don’t believe in anyway—casting out demons!

Lastly, I do agree with one of the other reviewers, there was too much darkness and not enough light in this movie. There were disturbing images of an old lady possessed that seemed right out of a zombie movie—the very movies I now avoid because of such images. I know that this is a movie about demons—wait, it’s a movie about Jesus, right? Also, I found the scene where Morgan’s son is being spun around on the ceiling scary. It’s the kind of scared I used to get as a kid when I would see a horror film where evil seemed to overcome good. Days later it’s not the scene where the Bible saves everyone that sticks with me, it’s the demonic images. I don’t recommend this film to anyone that has stopped watching horror movies because they felt conviction for wanting to “be scared” for entertainment.
My Ratings: Average / 2
—Jennifer, age 28
Negative—I wouldn’t say that the movie was too dark, because I felt the book was dark as well. My husband had trouble keeping up/understanding the story line/background because he had not read the book, so I thought it could have been told better. I was offended by the dress of the older woman and that the camera zoomed in on her trying to look sexy for Brandon. They could have done that without showing any cleavage; as a Christian film, this was totally unacceptable. Also, the part with the demon “seeds” coming out of Brandon, it was a copy of “The Green Mile;” it was cool for that movie, but did not work for this one, it just looked like a copy-cat and took away from the story (you start thinking of “Green Mile”). I also felt that there was not strong enough reference to Jesus and the Gospel. Yes, they said His Name, but I feel that anyone walking into this movie not understanding the Gospel, is going to come out just more confused.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Angela, age 27