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By Steve Anderson | April 18, 2006

You ever work with a guy who just found religion?

They have this weird tendency to get all preachy and suchlike, and it’s even weirder if the guy also happens to be really good at his job. Management’s never gonna throw him out on his ear no matter how much prosetylizing he does–he’s just too good at what he does to get rid of.

That’s exactly what happened with “The Visitation”, the second movie from Frank Peretti’s weird line of Christian horror fiction in recent memory, the first being “Hangman’s Curse.”

Where “Hangman’s Curse” was more for the teenage set, “The Visitation” is a full-blown adult tale, as evidenced by the presence of both Randy Travis, who most people under twenty don’t pay much attention to, and Edward Furlong, who will make anyone under the age of twenty scream in terror at the mere sight of him.

But anyway, what’s going on here is a little old-fashioned tent revival meeting in the sleepy little town of Antioch. Yes, just like the Bible. And this revival meeting is going to get a lot of people questioning their thoughts on the end of the world, miracle healings, and the very nature of God Himself.

And who’s leading this tent meeting? Billy Graham? Parson Pat Robertson? Oh no, folks. Oh no. It’s being led by our very own Edward Furlong.

Which is scary enough to begin with. Looking at Eddie, who has somehow managed to at least LOOK fatter since his time in The Asylum’s “Intermedio”–which isn’t hard, frankly. Eddie started out looking like a gray, sallow drug addict. Now he just looks like a CHUBBY drug addict.

Even better, while Eddie’s running the tent revival down on some elderly woman’s farm, the Face of Jesus has appeared, clearly, in a mildew stain on a hotel bathroom wall. Plus, a crucifix Jesus in a Catholic church in Antioch is crying tears that heal people’s injuries. Possibly angelic beings are using beer-transporting minors to announce their coming, and to top it all off, guys are getting liquored up and burying dogs that in short order come back from the dead.

Yeah, it’s like some creepy redux of “Un Chien Andalou” out here in Antioch. And with Eddie at the helm I TOTALLY follow.

Now, the really baffling thing about “The Visitation” is that it somehow manages to be a nice suspenseful thriller despite the sheer amount of religious kookery (check out the panic at twenty minutes ten seconds at the weeping Jesus) we’ve got crammed into it.

And perhaps the best part of all, “The Visitation” may now claim a record all its own. Like I said earlier, Randy Travis is in this sucker, and he’s playing a Pentecostal minister.

I don’t know how many movies involving exorcisms you’ve seen, but in most of them I’ve seen, it takes three Catholic priests like days or weeks at a clip just to get one demon expelled from a victim.

Randy Travis can do it with ONE SENTENCE.

Oh yeah. Where the Catholics are chanting and dumping water on the victim from little crystal vials, Randy just strolls on up, lays a hand on the victim’s forehead and says “And Jesus said, leave this man, you unclean spirit” (or something similar) and BOOM! This flood of CGI flies (I’m guessing they’re flies–they’re little black dots that make a buzzing sound) pours out of the victim’s mouth and dissipates in the air above the victim.

“The Visitation” can claim to its credit the land speed record for exorcisms.

Somewhere, Father Karras is smacking his forehead and yelling to an empty room “Bloody Hell! Why didn’t I think of that??”

The ending is pretty standard for Peretti–it compares to “Hangman’s Curse” in that it introduces a nice big honking chunk of secular explanation in to confuse how much of what you’re seeing is demonic and how much is mundane. Plus it features a lot of Eddie screaming. Which is not fun.

The special features are limited to a trailer for “End of the Spear” and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, “The Visitation” is a surprisingly good and suspenseful thriller, and it would have been better if it hadn’t been for the sheer choking amount of religious kookery gumming up the works. Despite the fact that it’s got so many religious nuts in it that you’ll think it’s just a particularly long and bad installment of “The 700 Club,” it still manages to at least work as a suspense thriller. At least no one’s calling for any governments to be overthrown here….

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