Night Visitor

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • R
  • Thriller

Although sometimes genuinely scary, this boy-who-cried-wolf thriller is done in by script implausibilities that weaken a promising premise and transform NIGHT VISITOR into an all-too-typical, teen-in-trouble suspense flick. As the film opens, prostitutes are disappearing from the streets (and not because they're being solicited for sexual purposes). Meanwhile...read more

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Although sometimes genuinely scary, this boy-who-cried-wolf thriller is done in by script implausibilities that weaken a promising premise and transform NIGHT VISITOR into an all-too-typical, teen-in-trouble suspense flick. As the film opens, prostitutes are disappearing from the streets

(and not because they're being solicited for sexual purposes). Meanwhile Billy Colton (Derek Rydall), who is known for stretching the truth to the breaking point, gets into trouble with his petulant history teacher Zachary Willard (Allen Garfield), an overweight asthmatic with contempt for his

high school students. Promising his hard-working mom he'll stay out of trouble, Billy dreams that his best pal, Kelly (Teresa Van Der Woude), will become his girl friend. However, when the seductive Lisa Grace (Shannon Tweed) moves in next door, Billy becomes fascinated by her, spying on her with

his telescope and discovering that she is a whore. Billy invites Kelly and another friend over to sneak a peek at Lisa's activities; unfortunately, she takes the night off, and Billy's friends think he's fibbing as usual. Determined to prove his suspicions, Billy climbs onto Lisa's roof one night

with a camera and stumbles onto the scene of her murder. What's more, the man in the satanic mask who is stabbing Lisa turns out to be Zachary Willard, his teacher! When police detective Crane (Richard Roundtree) investigates, he takes Billy's camera, but doesn't buy the kid's story. Although the

cops interrogate Willard and his retarded brother, Stanley (Michael J. Pollard), noting the duo's weirdness, they can't find any incriminating evidence. After the cops depart, Stanley goes down to the brothers' cellar to inspect their newest piece of "furniture"--the demented siblings' nickname

for the whores they have chained in the basement for purposes of torture and eventual sacrifice to Beelzebub. Frustrated after learning he forgot to remove the lens cap from his camera, Billy visits Ron Devereaux (Elliott Gould), a friend of his late father and a former policeman who is leery of

coming out of retirement to involve himself in this far-fetched case about a demonic high-school killer. Zachary threatens Billy on the phone, challenging the young fibber with his lack of credibility as a witness. In the death house, Stanley leads his victim upstairs, to a sacrificial chamber

where Zachary bloodily offers her body to Satan. Later, after Zachary toys with Billy after class one day, Billy and Kelly take matters into their own hands and are nearly run down by Stanley while snooping around at the den of devil worshippers. Reconsidering his decision to stay off the case,

Devereaux meets with Billy and agrees to help him search the Willards' house for evidence. Unfortunately, Kelly, unable to contact Billy, sneaks over to the crazed brothers' house and gets nabbed by Stanley. Trusting him to get rid of the interloper, Zachary goes to school, but becomes suspicious

when Billy doesn't attend class. Meanwhile, Billy and the ex-cop search the schoolteacher's house and stumble upon the sacrifice room. Devereaux--who now admits that he was never a detective, merely a forensics worker--having heard Kelly's screams in the cellar, battles the chainsaw-wielding

Stanley and manages to shoot him. Zachary shows up, and he and Billy scuffle. Falling into the basement, the teacher grabs a gun, but Billy manages to kick him against a hook in the wall. Only after Billy and Devereaux have saved the day do the police arrive.

Overlooking its derivative nature, one could have had a passably good time watching NIGHT VISITOR, largely because of its talented cast of pros and agreeable newcomers. Unfortunately, the film's good points get swallowed up in a plethora of implausibilities and convenient happenstance. Although

the boy-who-cried-wolf plotline dovetails nicely with the prostitute murders and satanism, the screenwriters throw in unbelievable turns of events simply to pump up suspense. Wouldn't the cops have been a little more sympathetic to Billy's eyewitness account of the slaying, given the recent string

of prostitute killings? How could Billy's mother allow him to continue going to Willard's classes if her son was terrified of him? Why would the boy place himself in such a situation without requesting a transfer? And what teenage girl, aware that serial murders of women are occurring, would go

poking around the suspect's strange house by herself? Another liability is Michael J. Pollard, whose patented loony act turns into unnecessary comic relief and dissipates tension. On the plus side, Rydall is a promising young actor who holds the screen authoritatively, able to project the teen's

outer cockiness and inner terror simultaneously.

Managing to keep us on the edge of our seats, the suspense scenes are well-directed set-pieces, particularly Billy's close-up view of his neighbor's murder as his camera snaps away. Easily the most disturbing scene is the eerie prelude to the prostitute's sacrifice, in which Pollard's Stanley

lures his unwary victim to her death while pretending to help her escape. As a depiction of the sadistic dementia of serial killers, several of the scenes with Garfield and Pollard in the death house are unsettling. They might have been truly frightening if Pollard had not succumbed to his usual

cutesy, crackpot-characterization tricks. By contrast, Garfield's portrayal of a mass murderer is at times so powerful it overcomes the conventionality of the rest of the film. NIGHT VISITOR is a disappointment, but shuddery enough on occasion to make you wonder about your own high-school

teachers' hobbies. (Violence, nudity, profanity.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Although sometimes genuinely scary, this boy-who-cried-wolf thriller is done in by script implausibilities that weaken a promising premise and transform NIGHT VISITOR into an all-too-typical, teen-in-trouble suspense flick. As the film opens, prostitutes a… (more)

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