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|FRANK PERETTI'S THE VISITATION
Review by Cartoonist Jeff Swenson
|It starts out like an interesting Stephen King Mini-Series and then ends up on in the mess of unoriginal Christian propaganda.
You might think the way Randy Travis looks here as a Pentecostal Minister, that he's the villain. But no...
|I saw Frank Peretti, the author and one of the producers of the movie The Visitation, speak at my Bible College. The guy talked like he was on speed. He was very entertaining, very energetic and overall a captivating speaker.
His fiction, on the other hand, is written for kids no matter if it is intended for adults or not.
The official The Visitation movie site can be found here...
Edward Furlong makes for a very, scary messiah.
"Do you get the plot of this movie?"
"No, but I'm being paid to act, not critique."
"Oh fuck me, fuck me--" Okay this doesn't happen in The Visitation. It's from another movie starring Kelly Lynch.
|I realized this after my second reading of This Present Darkness when I loaned a copy of the book to my non-Christian friend Kevin, who came back and said it was pretty ridiculous. When I read it the second time I understood what he meant. The writing was like a comic book (not that I have anything against comic books). It featured angelic beings slashing their swords at demons who puffed into smoke and where they went was never explained (could they die, were they automatically banished once the angel sword hit them--what are the rules of this fantasy?).
Last night I chose to watch The Visitation, available On-Demand, not realizing that it was Frank Peretti's work. I haven't kept up with the Christian Author since I was in my teens. When I perused the synopsis it sounded like it would be standard horror fare: a fallen minister who drinks confronts a faith healer who is more than he seems. You can see why I compare it to a Stephen King Mini-series. It has all of the same elements: small town, small town sheriff, psychic (or rather spiritual) attacks, and a conclusion that even with Stephen King is usually not satisfying. I don't mean to sleight The Grand Horror Master but usually for me it is the ride that is enjoyable and not the ending.
The Visitation starts by introducing us to a series of events including a car accident caused by the appearance of some strange visitors appearing in the road. A boy, on a dare, has stolen the church van to go grab a keg, and when he sees the mystical strangers he swerves off and down a hill. "Miraculously" he survives without a scratch. In the beginning we're not told who these "visitors" are. If I had not known who the author was I would have guessed they were going in the direction of alien visitation. However, this is Frank Peretti. These visitors, are of course, demons.
Then Brandon, played very charismatically by Edward Furlong, appears as a faith-healing wannabe messiah. Thankfully, and I was sweating bullets, the pentecostal minister of the town played by Randy Travis (because we all know Country Singers are Christians) knows better and accuses Brandon of being from the devil. The towns people are sheep though (doesn't Christ like that aspect) and follow Brandon because of his wonderful powers.
In the end there is the usual confrontation between the true Christians expelling demons in the name of Christ and the wannabe Messiah who is controlled by Satan. Yada, yada, yada. In the next couple of paragraphs there are some spoilers so if you want to see the movie first please do. The movie is well done including the acting, it's the storyline that falls apart.
|First off all, anyone who isn't a Pentecostal should probably be offended. In what you might call a mini-ecumenical meeting, Randy Travis' character puts every other faith to shame because the other faiths seem incompetent--mainly because they don't believe in Biblical literalism (and secretly because none of them are Pentecostals and don't believe like Pentecostals). That is why there are no Catholic Exorcisms. There are Pentecostal exorcisms, quick and easy--"Out in the name of Christ". And then CGI comes floating out of the victim's mouth and they're healed. I have yet to see any video of such an exorcism. Even non-Catholic nuts like Bob Larson will have exorcisms that last forever. Show me a "real" exorcism video where at least someone pretends to be exorcised in 10 seconds or less. Frank Peretti prefers the Fast Food style of getting rid of demons.
The reason Justin Cantwell, who is the true identity of Brandon The Demonic Messiah, turns to the devil is because of the fallen minister turned Christian hero again Travis Jordan, as played by Martin Donovan, who tries to help the boy when he believed in God and his wife wasn't murdered yet (yes, just you try to follow this storyline). Justin, as a kid, goes to Minister Travis because he was being abused by his father who is also a minister and who in Peretti's mind is too radical or fringe. Travis reports the abuse to the authorities who only make a mild inquiry and then leave Justin's father alone to punish the boy for snitching on him.
Then for some inexplicable reason Justin's father crucifies him. Why? Who the hell knows. Christians have a fixation on crucifixion and I guess Justin has to be an "opposite messiah" of sorts. God doesn't save him from this crackpot of a father so Justin, during his crucifixion, calls on demonic forces to save him. I actually at this point, would have to give credit to the devil. Maybe he has ulterior motives but at least he saved Justin physically. What kind of God allows a kid to be crucified by a father who professes to be his follower. Oh yeah right, the same thing almost happened in the Old Testament with Abraham and Isaac.
This is really where it gets stupid. Justin is given demonic powers and in order to stay alive and keep his devilish charms must make human sacrifices. The first being the wife of Travis Jordan, who reported his the child abuse which resulted in the crucifixion.
If you've been reading this and you're lost on what's going on here then that's the point. This is a mess, but it certainly represents Christian thinking. If God is so apathetic that he ignores the pain of an innocent boy being crucified for no good reason then why shouldn't we sympathize with Justin for reaching out to anyone, including the devil to help him? Physical pain, not to mention the emotional abuse involved, would cause even diehard Christians to recant. Not all, mind ya, but I think it could be safe to say that most Christian Americans are pretty soft when it comes to real torture for their Lord. That's why they prefer their Christian President to torture others in the name of stopping terrorism--opps, went too far. Not all Christians think that way, just the far right nuts.
There is no salvation for Justin in this movie. He belongs to the devil because of a follower and speaker of God, his crazy minister father. God should have intervened and not in the form of a fallen minister and a Pentecostal who later expel demons. He should have fucking intervened before Justin's flesh was pierced by a maniac. Any rational and compassionate human bystander would have done something. God is not rational and compassionate, his plan involves human suffering for his own glory. As a humanist, it makes you want to throw up.
As entertainment for the freethinking atheist or agnostic this movie is interesting to examine. for it's Christian propaganda. As general entertainment it falls short, but no worse than many of the low-budget horror movies that are being churned out (almost all with crappy CGI effects too). I can only recommend this movie in that it is above average in it's action, direction and production. The storyline is nonsense, but that's Frank Peretti's fault. I also have to add that Edward Furlong's performace was great considering the material. He makes for a very creepy, cultish messiah.
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