Visitors is a ghost story. Although it is a ghost story that hovers in a place of ambiguity where you are not entirely certain if the ghosts are real or are in Radha Mitchells imagination as a result of her isolation, or hallucinations brought on by fumes or even the mysterious barnacles in the bilge. Moreover, the film is an isolation story a ghost story almost entirely located within the highly contained space of a small yacht. Imagine a mixture of the other great Australian yachtboard thriller Dead Calm (1989) and The Shining (1980) and its ambiguous ghosts of the mind, or even perhaps Roman Polanskis Repulsion (1965), which subjectively took place inside the hallucinations of a womans fraying sanity. There are a number of similarities to Richard Franklin and Everett De Roches Roadgames, which was substantially a one-person drama about Stacy Keach in a truck where the entire film equally wavered between real and possibly imagined threat.
Visitors was a strong return to genre form for Richard Franklin. He achieves a genuine sense of isolation for Radha Mitchell. The early scenes develop out with some subtle jumps the foot on the window, the Maori tribesman who suddenly appears on the boat and then with spooky subtlety picks up the cat and joins Radha in bed, the mothers appearance out of the cloud of fumes, Radha spookily finding a cigarette left burning after she has dismissed what she thinks is an hallucination. Richard Franklin keeps piling these jumps on with considerable effect the sudden appearance of Susannah York when Radha Mitchell opens the bathroom door contains a jolt that makes everybody jump in their seats. The only dissatisfaction comes in the ending where Radha manages to banish her mother with bland effect. The happy ending where she sails away to join her possibly imaginary lover in Auckland comes as somewhat false, as the film has not done enough to build the other character up in a way that makes this seem an adequate payoff.
Radha Mitchell, an Australian actress who caught Hollywood attention after Pitch Black (2000), gives an intelligent performance. Expectedly, it is the veterans among the cast who hold the stage Ray Barrett, who plays Radha Mitchells father with a perfect Aussie rough diamond characterisation, and Susannah York, who gives a performance of madness that holds some frightening depths.
Full film available online here:-