Visitors (2003)
By: Paul Ryan on October 9, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Fox (Australia) Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Richard Franklin
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Susannah York, Ray Barrett, Dominic Purcell, Tottie Goldsmith
Screenplay: Everett DeRoche
Music: Nerida Tyson-Chew
Tagline: "Fear runs deep"
Country: Australia
Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) is attempting to solo circumnavigate the globe in her father's 44-foot yacht. Barring radio contact with her home base and an orange cat named Taco, she is completely alone for this months-long expedition. Not the best idea when you're dragging around a ton of psychological baggage involving a dying father (Ray Barrett), a mentally ill mother (Susannah York) and an unsupportive fiancé (Dominic Purcell). As Georgia encounters difficult conditions at sea, she also starts to find herself increasingly tormented by harrowing visions, not to mention a pirate ship that is stalking the seas…

Visitors marked the final film of veteran Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin (Patrick, Road Games, Psycho II), who passed away in July this year. Franklin dependably generates suspense through the cramped confines of Georgia's yacht and the empty unknown of the open seas. The director also gets fine performances from a solid cast, with Mitchell a sympathetic lead and particularly good work from Ray Barrett and an impressively unhinged Susannah York. Dominic Purcell and Tottie Goldsmith are also well used as Georgia's distant fiancé and vapid corporate sponsor respectively.

Despite all this, Visitors is unfortunately an unsatisfying experience. Somewhere between the script (by Aussie genre stalwart Everett De Roche) and a couple of dubious directorial choices, the film fails to really make the viewer truly care about Georgia's psychological plight. It'd be easy to tag the film as Repulsion at sea, but the protagonist's journey is never quite intense enough to have much impact. A flashback structure gives the viewer glimpses into Georgia's troubled past, which is effective at times, but overstates certain details while leaving others – such as a weak romantic triangle subplot – badly underdeveloped. The gimmick of casting Mitchell as a younger version of York in one scene doesn't work at all, while certain seafaring moments feel all-too-obviously shot in a studio. Especially disappointing is the ending, which is jarringly upbeat and accompanied by a sickly "you-go-girl" pop ballad by Bachelor Girl.

Still, when it sticks to the scary stuff, Franklin delivers the goods. It's not the best film to go out on, but there are some very effective moments that remind one just how good a good a suspense filmmaker Franklin could be.
An excellent video presentation graces this disc. 16x9 enhanced and presented in the full 2.35:1 ratio, this shows off Ellery Ryan's sleek cinematography to the full.
Dolby 5.1 is what you get here, and it's a quality track indeed. On the downside, the closing tune by Bachelor Girl also comes through loud and clear, but that's the biggest gripe that can be had about the sound.
Extra Features
Given that Visitors comes on a single layer disc, you wouldn't expect too much in the way of extra features, but what there is isn't too shabby.

Interviews (7.39m 4x3 Full Frame.): A no-frills set of interviews with Mitchell, Franklin, Barrett, Purcell and York. Amid the usual uninteresting "everyone was great to work with" blather, there are some interesting anecdotes about the experiences of filming at sea. Franklin also has some insightful comments about the psychological aspects of the story, while Barrett (and his very eloquent speaking voice) is quite amusing.

Trailer (1.58m 16x9): A short, sharp, effective trailer that makes the film look more hard-edged than it actually is.

Photo Gallery: Not a fan of these myself, and this one doesn't help the cause. It's simply 19 stills from the film and isn't particularly interesting at all.

Storyboards: 12 screens of storyboards from the climax of the film. This is far more interesting than the photo gallery and gives the viewer an idea of how Franklin conceived his shots for this sequence.

Deleted Scenes (2.30m, 4x3 Letterbox): Three short scenes apparently cut early in editing, with a timecode and production audio. Nothing terribly essential to the story is presented here, through it is interesting to see one tracking shot guided by Franklin's voice off-camera.

Biographies: Text biographies of Mitchell, Franklin, Barrett, York, Purcell, Goldsmith, and Producer Jennifer Hadden.
The Verdict
Not that great, but not that bad either, Visitors is a smoothly made thriller boasting a fine cast and effective atmosphere. Richard Franklin's recent passing (at only 58) is a real shame and while the film isn't one of his best, it's still worth a watch for followers of this underrated Australian filmmaker.
Movie Score
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