Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Better than Average
Science Fiction, Thriller, Drama, Horror, Christian
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
January 20, 2006 (select theaters)
DVD premiere: February 28, 2006
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
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
“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.”
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.
Brandon did a good job of deception, just as Our Lord will tell you in verse 23, so do take heed.
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:
Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
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
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!