For a late entry into the slasher genre, Night Visitor doesn’t do a bad job of twisting a little convention to create an entertaining, if mostly bloodless movie.
Derek Rydall plays Billy, a spunky boy-who-cried-wolf type who likes to tell tall tales to just about anybody who will listen. This has made him the nemesis of one of his teachers, Mr. Zachary Willard (Allen Garfield). It seems like Mr. Zachary’s life long dream is get Billy expelled from high school. Meanwhile, Billy’s truth telling skills are put to the test when a beautiful call girl named Lisa Grace (Shannon Tweed in a nice performance) moves in next door. Slightly flirtatious but fairly harmless, she becomes the object of Billy’s obsession. Not that anyone believes a real-life hooker has moved in. One night Billy invites his two best buds over to spy on her, but hours pass and nothing happens, so they leave. Billy falls asleep only to be awakened by Lisa’s cries for help. He runs to her aid but is stopped short when he sees her being murdered by Mr. Zachary! He reports it to the police (one of whom is played by Richard Roundtree), but even upon first meeting, they find him to be sort of incredulous. Now Billy finds himself in a fairly precarious situation, since Mr. Zachary knows Billy can finger him as the killer. This would certainly be bad for Mr. Zachary and his satanic cult! Well, it’s a cult if you count two members as such! Mr. Zachary is aided by his Idiot Man Child brother, Stanley (Michael J. Pollard), in an attempt to rid the world of ‘evil’ woman (aka prostitutes) with ritualistic killings. Desperate, Billy turns towards his deceased father’s partner (they were cops), the burnt out Ronald Devereaux (Elliot Gould in a sleepwalking turn) for help.
Whew! Now that’s a bag of plots just waiting to be wasted. Luckily, Night Visitor chooses to be a lighthearted romp instead of an all out horror movie. Except for Gould, the actors are well up to the challenge of balancing ludicrous situations with just the right touch of horror and humor as to not leave the viewer bored. Pollard and Garfield are especially good as the Of Mice and Men cult members and on their own, make this film worth seeing. The star, Derek Rydall has become sort of an obsession for me. He was a familiar face to video store renters around the time of this film and put in excellent performances in this and Popcorn before he seemed to disappear. It’s too bad too because he had that boy-next-door appeal that most actors are either too pretty or too scary to embody these days. And porn star Teri Weigel is good in her small role as the skuzzy hooker/victim. But poor Elliot Gould! It’s blatantly obvious he did not want to be in this movie. It’s still kind of cool to see him slumming it, as it were, and there are far worse choices than an asleep-at-the-wheel Gould. Even when he doesn’t want to do, he still manages… something. I’ll just leave it at that…
I won’t lie; it’s not the best script in the world and is directed in a sort of lifeless manner, which may partly explain Gould’s phoned in performance. Yet it remains a charming thriller that I seem to enjoy more with each viewing.