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'The Visitor' goes from haunted house to folk horror, director says

Star Finn Jones and director Justin P. Lange say their new horror moviedeals with some deep themes.

The Visitor Screenshot Trailer

The Visitor, a new horror film set for digital and on-demand release on Friday, might make you think twice about moving to a small town. However, both the director and the star tell SYFY WIRE that they love small towns — Justin P. Lange actually lives in one, but he understands the somewhat eerie pull they can have, as seen in the new movie. 

Finn Jones of Iron Fist and Game of Thrones fame stars as Robert, a Londoner who leaves the cosmopolitan city behind to move to the small American town where his wife (Jessica McNamee) grew up, after her father dies and they’ve inherited his house. Although Robert is, as the title suggests, a supposed newcomer to this tight little community, something strange is going on. He’s being recognized, and there are old paintings of a man who looks just like him. There’s much more at play in this doppelganger horror. 

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Lange gets it. His father grew up in a very small town in upstate New York, and he says that when his dad moved away, the reception was chilly. “Like, who do you think you are that you get to leave?” Lange says, but he adds that the themes in The Visitor go beyond just small-town insularity. Broadly speaking, and without revealing any of the film’s twists, where you come from shapes you in ways you don’t know. “There are these systems in place and this context that we're born into that are going to affect who we are and who we become. And, unless you're conscious of it, it's easy just to sort of be pulled in one way or the other."

“I'm a director, I'm a control freak,” he continues. “And what scares me is the lack of control that we have in the background and the things that have accumulated over time to form who we are that we still can't see.”

“It's not a traditional scary movie where you go in and you get the jumps and you get the gore and stuff like that. It's a lot more psychological and it's a lot more nuanced,” Jones tells SYFY WIRE. “I think it's more just that kind of like creepy factor. The guy is alone, you know, and he's alone in a strange place with a lot of strangers around him. To be trapped in that situation is kind of suffocating. I also think what's scary about it is the responsibility that he has. The fact that he's just moved to this new town with his wife... his wife's father's just died. They've been Harriet at the house. He's about to have a baby. Like, that's scary.”

In addition to all that, Robert is on medication that colors everything with paranoia and psychological horror. “What's real, what isn't real?” Jones says. “Like, am I the issue here? Or is, is it this place?”

Psychological horror is indeed just one flavor of horror in The Visitor, the full extent of which will become clear upon viewing. 

“It plays with different types of the sub-genres, where it sort of starts a little more haunted house and then goes a bit more folk horror,” Lange says. 

The Visitor will be available on digital and on-demand Oct. 7, and on EPIX in December 2022. 

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