NBC jumps on the sci-fi bandwagon with this thriller, touted as being in the tradition of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Instead of “being in the tradition of,””Visitors in the Night” borrows too liberally from those pics — especially “Close Encounters”– taking a good idea (an alien case study of a human and her offspring) and rendering it average with unimaginative execution.
Judith (Markie Post) is a divorced mom with a handful of a teenager on her hands. Katie (Candace Cameron sporting a bad-girl Tori Spelling hairdo) is a rebellious kid who gets into normal teen trouble in the rural small town.
But then weird, unexplainable events start happening: Horses stampede through the center of town, mysterious power blackouts occur, abstract designs are cut into the wheat fields (as happened in England a few years ago). Katie’s doodles in class match the designs of the field destruction, and she and her friends are blamed.
Meanwhile, a suspicious threesome tails Katie and Judith everywhere, finally forcing a lame confrontation; they aren’t from the government, but from an alien-abduction support group, although they appear to be as silly the alien trackers in “Repo Man.”
Judith, in the meantime, is having nightmares — even in the daytime — about being abducted by aliens.
All of Katie’s nocturnal activity and Judith’s realization, through hypnotherapy, that she has been poked and prodded all her life by the intergalactic travelers has a deleterious effect on family life, until the women come clean about their alien friends.
NBC claims the ending is “shocking,” but it’s more anticlimactic than anything.
Unlike “The X-Files”– which seems to be the new standard-bearer for this genre –“Visitors” cheats on the full-on emotional and intellectual paranoia that drives sci-fi thrillers (essential in “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Close Encounters”).
Script, which runs from making sense to being borderline silly, is never clear in its goal. But Judith and Katie are strong characters, and Post and Cameron give them depth. Cameron digs into the troubled teen role with gusto, and Post delivers a spirited perf.
The special effects, notably the cloud formations around the alien ship and the flooding lights in Judith’s house, are lifted straight from “Close Encounters.”
Alien animatronic effects are top-notch and the production looks great.