The film is based on The Visitation (1999), the fourth novel by Frank Peretti, a former minister with The Assembly of God. Peretti began publishing in the 1980s and had a Christian best-seller with This Present Darkness (1986). Not too surprising given Perettis background, his fiction is steeped in charismatic theology and centres around the battle on Earth between angels and demonic forces. His books are popular and a number of these have also been adapted to film with Hangmans Curse (2003), House (2008) and the upcoming Monster (2016), all of which fall into the niche of Christian horror.
The film has been placed in the hands of Robby Henson who previously made the Western Pharaohs Army (1995) and subsequently stayed within the horror genre to make Thr3e (2006) and the adaptation of Frank Perettis House. The film is co-produced by Scott Derrickson, the director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and other works such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Sinister (2012), Deliver Us from Evil (2014) and Doctor Strange (2016), and himself an openly Christian believer.
From the outset, The Visitation strikes as much better than most of the other above-listed Christian films. You need only compare it to the Lalondes films, which are cheaply made and employ actors who are well down the C-list rung. By contrast, The Visitation brings in some more than reasonable names former Hal Hartley star Martin Donovan, Kelly Lynch, c/w singer Randy Travis and Edward Furlong, who actually gives one of the better performances he has since the career slump he went into throughout the 1990s/2000s following his troubles with DUI, domestic battery and drug possession.
The film settles in with an interesting ambiguity. You are not sure at the outset whether Edward Furlong is a messianic figure or somebody sinister. Moreover, he wields all the miracles associated with charismatic Christianity miraculous healings and speaking in tongues, while he uses common parlance like Slaying in the Spirit. If this were not such an overtly Christian film, you would almost believe that it is digging its knife in and portraying the stuff of charismatic evangelism with a dark spin, portraying the showmanship of tent Gospel preachers as being of The Devil. Even when you are aware that it is demonic forces at work, the film has no particularly good things to say about believers by implication it seems to say that they are a simple-minded lot who will fall in and slavishly follow anybody with a flair for the miraculous and will blindly keep following for reasons of self-interest.
The film sets all of this up rather well. For nearly three-quarters of the show, The Visitation looked promising it was certainly better structured as a story, less preachy and more dramatically assured than most of the above-listed Christian films. It is only in its final explanatory sections that the film falters. Here the preachiness kicks in and we get some hurried stuff involving cheaply depicted possessions and an exorcism, although the final confrontation between Martin Donovan and Edward Furlong does tie many of the story strands throughout the show nicely together.