The Visitor: Justin P Lange on Working with Blumhouse & Directing

Justin P Lange is a horror director whose star has been on the rise since his theatrical debut in the 2018 supernatural thriller The Dark. He's since followed up with 2021's The Seventh Day with Guy Pearce. Lange's latest is The Visitor, the story of a couple, Robert (Finn Jones) and Maia (Jessica McNamee), who moves back to her childhood home following a series of tragedies. There, Robert discovers an old portrait of a man who looks like him, only to fall down the rabbit hole while trying to discover more about this mysterious doppelganger's identity. The director spoke to Bleeding Cool about how the film is the first one he didn't write, what made him decide to take on the project, and the chemistry between Jones and McNamee.

The Visitor: Justin P Lange on Working with Blumhouse & Directing
Finn Jones in The Visitor (2022). Image courtesy of Sam Lothridge and Blumhouse Television

Bleeding Cool: What made you decide to take on The Visitor?
Lange: It was the script [from Simon Boyes and Adam Mason] and the chance to work with Blumhouse, which is always a tantalizing opportunity for a horror director, and it didn't disappoint. They're great, and when I read the script, it gave me vibes of two of my favorite horror films 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Wicker Man.' It started a bit of haunted house and then began to move toward more folk horror. Ultimately the question I had for myself was, "Did I think I could add something to it, and I did." So that's what made me take it on.

The Visitor: Jessica McNamee on Psychological Thriller & Finn Jones
Jessica McNamee and Finn Jones in The Visitor (2022). Image courtesy of Sam Lothridge and Blumhouse Television

Can you tell me how well Finn handled the duality of his role with the mystery and psychological aspects?
Finn and I talked early before he decided to come onto the project. We got along, communicated, and got on the same page. After reading the script, he was always focused on the trajectory of the character and how the movie drops hints of things and where it's going. He was very aware of that and always checked in with me. We always wanted to make sure we had a handle on that, and I had a pretty strong idea of where I thought Robert should start to where he ended up, and he did a great job, always prepared.

The Visitor: Jessica McNamee on Psychological Thriller & Finn Jones
Finn Jones and Jessica McNamee in The Visitor (2022). Image courtesy of Sam Lothridge and Blumhouse Television

Given how far you've progressed in your directing career, what has helped you the most in this film?
This is probably the biggest movie that I've directed. It was a challenge because this is the first movie I've directed that I didn't write. That was something I was really interested in exploring and trying because I've always considered myself more a director than a writer, even though I like writing. I'm more nimble in directing

I don't know that I would write 'Poltergeist,' but I would love to direct it if that makes sense. The idea excited me that maybe I find that kind of movie I could direct and add something to, but it wasn't right in my brain. That was a challenge, but a fun and interesting one at that. It had some challenges with VFX or certain sequences that I hadn't done before. That was new for me and trying to think about that as far as how to try to use an economy of shots because those VFX sequences can get pretty pricey when you want to try something.

It was important to me this movie feels cinematic and filmic, trying to maximize our budget and make these things look good within what we can afford to do. There were some big sequences, and some were exciting. I feel it's a testament to Blumhouse and EPIX. They let me flex some creative muscles I haven't been able to, probably in other my other films, camera-wise, visually. I felt like I was challenging myself in a step forward, which is what you want. With each project, you want to feel like you're challenging yourself and moving forward.

The Visitor: Jessica McNamee on Psychological Thriller & Finn Jones
Blumhouse Television

After talking about Finn, can you explain how his co-stars helped weave the story's narrative?
I got so lucky working with such great actors on this project from the top down. We talked about Finn with Jess coming on, and they had such great chemistry from the outset. We went to dinner when she arrived, and they took an Uber together; evidently, they were singing at the top of their lungs the whole ride there. It was important to me from the first time I read the script. When Jess came on, she shared the view that I had a lot of empathy for Maia in her situation as well.

We didn't want the film to just be like she's there in service of Robert's character. We wanted her story to be as much as can be given the economy of screen time fleshed out. She needed to have that voice and a say in things. She was really instrumental in bringing that out of character. Between Dane [Rhodes], Donna [Biscoe], and Thomas [Francis Murphy], in some ways, these characters are the heroes of the movie, and it was so important to get them right. Maybe not Dane's character [laughs], but I loved working with Dane, and he was such a professional and so fun to work with on the set with Thomas and Donna. They brought so much in the little time they had on screen to the film. It was just such a joy to work with them. It's a tapestry. There are a lot of different fun characters, and it creates the tone of the film, which is slightly off-kilter, which it should be.

Paramount and Blumhouse's The Visitor is currently available on digital and on-demand and on EPIX on December 2022.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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