‘The Visitor’ Review: Provocateur Bruce LaBruce is Back with a Brilliantly Depraved Family Affair

Liem Soeng

‘The Visitor’ Review: Provocateur Bruce LaBruce is Back with a Brilliantly Depraved Family Affair
com com com com com com com

Bruce LaBruce has consistently stuck two middle fingers up at the status quo ever since he and G.B. Jones first began churning out queer punk zines and experimental movies in the late 80s. As his directing career progressed from a Toronto basement to film festivals and beyond, the co-father of Queercore put those two middle fingers — and the other eight as well — to increasingly subversive use. 

Films like “The Raspberry Reich,” “Otto, Or Up With Dead People,” and “L.A. Zombie” (which was banned by Australian censors in 2010) pushed the envelope with their explicit blend of taboo-busting sex and violence. Twincest, amputee fetishism, zombie porn… Nothing’s off the table for one of cinema’s most daring provocateurs, and that’s true again of his latest feature, “The Visitor,” which started out as a London art exhibition before washing up on German shores to premiere as a film in this year’s Berlinale. 

Related Stories

OPPENHEIMER, Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, 2023. © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In similar yet inverted fashion, “The Visitor” begins with a battered suitcase washing up on the shores of London’s River Thames. Amidst the police helicopters and screeching seagulls, a homeless man drags the case towards his tent, only to discover a Black Adonis (Bishop Black) emerging from within. Completely naked, with every bulging muscle covered in a foam-like substance, the titular Visitor takes the man’s clothes — and possibly his life — before heading into the city where other suitcases have suddenly appeared, writhing unnoticed in various locations across London.

No words are spoken except the infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech that a British MP named Enoch Powell delivered in 1968, where phrases like “I’d use gunships to stop migrants” form an oppressive soundscape over the alien’s arrival. These words, which are horrifically timely still in all manner of ways, continue to ring in our ears as The Visitor encounters a maid (Luca Federici) who brings him into a white, upper-class home which quickly becomes his home too.

This being a Bruce LaBruce film, it’s not long before the rather casual full-frontal nudity of that first scene gives way to blood, piss and even shit which The Visitor obligingly serves up to his new employers. “It’s delicious,” says one. “Very exotic,” and that’s before they take a tentative whiff of the actual feces on their plates. One quick taste soon transforms into an orgiastic banquet where each member of the family takes great delight in smearing The Visitor’s excrement across their faces. As you do.

From that point on, “The Visitor” follows the same narrative outline as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sixth film, “Teorema”, where a divine force (played by Terence Stamp) corrupted and then abandoned an upper-class Milanese family. Pasolini, LaBruce’s spiritual forebear in many ways, is no stranger to provocation, yet “The Visitor’s” retelling makes the original look positively tame by comparison. And that’s no easy feat given The Vatican protested against “Teorema” upon its release.  

Following that first debaucherous meal, the Visitor begins to feast on each member of the family in turn, seducing them individually and also through incestuous pairings as The Father (Macklin Kowal) and The Daughter (Ray Filar) especially can’t keep their hands — and various other body parts — away from him. Each unsimulated sex scene is more graphic and sacrilegious than the last, yet a divine ecstasy punctuates every thrust and moan as this white conservative, family happily gives in to Black male sexual potency. 

Everyone is extremely game, cast-wise, which is just as well because LaBruce doesn’t hold back on what he demands from his actors. Whether they’re giving “fuck-me” eyes or actually fucking in increasingly depraved ways, the cast give their B-movie best. Non-binary artist/performer Bishop Black is the standout who ties this whole sordid affair together with a striking screen presence that makes you believe this family really will do anything to satisfy their visitor. 

Perverted sex is crucial to the film’s unsavory impact and not just for shock value either. It might seem that way on the surface, but to anyone familiar with La Bruce’s ongoing mission statement, it’s clear that porn is a weapon of subversion that he wields as precisely as the body liquids on display are sloppy. Case in point, the vivid red and yellow slogans interjected throughout each sex scene that challenge and confront traditional values with a provocative yet mischievous slant. 

The likes of “PRICK UP YOUR REARS” and “GET YOUR KNOCKERS IN A TWIST” specifically toy with British slang while phrases such as “OVERRULE BRITANNIA” and “COLONISE THE COLONISER” push back against the vile rhetoric Enoch Powell raised in that truly awful opening speech. Except, here, the “alien invasion” he believed would destroy British values instead deconstruct the idyllic nuclear family in order to liberate it, showing how sexual desire in its rawest state holds the power to transform and redefine who we are on both an individual and societal level. By positioning the Visitor as a racial minority specifically, LaBruce also pushes back against Britain’s colonial past and present while urging us to wrest free of the norms that suppress and oppress our daily lives. 

“The Visitor” and Pasolini’s “Teorema” both end on a similar haunting note, although LaBruce’s radical message is more liberating in its boldness. While he’s neither British nor an immigrant, the co-father of Queercore has always created art outside of the norm with a filmography that exists in those liminal spaces between arthouse and pornography, never quite sitting right in either. So in that regard, it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to sticking two middle fingers up at contemporary Britain than LaBruce, and it’s even harder to imagine anyone else doing so with such disruptive, subversive glee.

Grade: A-

“The Visitor” premiered at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

VIA

Leave a Comment

FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyPFyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP FyP