August 29, 2014

SUMMER OF BLOOD, Day 90: Visiting Hours (1982)

Directed by Jean-Claude Lord. Starring Michael Ironside ("Colt Hawker"), Lee Grant ("Deborah Ballin"), Linda Purl ("Sheila Munroe"), and William Shatner ("Gary Baylor"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (20th Century Fox/Anchor Bay)
Running time: 01:45:05
Country: Canada

On a whim, I decided to watch a Canadian ROBOCOP rip-off on YouTube called THE VINDICATOR a few weeks ago. After enduring that cinematic atrocity, I noticed the name of the director and made a choice to avoid anything by this person at all costs in the future. Fast forward a few days, and I decided, once and for all, to scratch a certain Canadian horror movie off my List of Shame. That movie was VISITING HOURS, and lo and behold, it's directed by the same guy who pooped out THE VINIDICATOR, one Jean-Claude Lord. Funny how those types of things happen.

VISITING HOURS basically kicks into gear when a female journalist is attacked in her home by the woman-beater she verbally blasted on her show. The thing is, the attacker, played by Michael Ironside (SCANNERS), is butt naked and wearing a bunch of her jewelry. He's also armed with a shitty kitchen knife that would probably break if he tried to stab someone with it. During this very disturbing melee, you can even catch a glimpse of Little Ironside, which might be the most upsetting thing about this movie. Anyway, the journalist escapes but ends up in the hospital, where she remains for most of the movie. This opening is appropriately confrontational, and it also feels like the type of opening you'd see in a Hitchock movie, minus the flamboyant camera work.

The initial attack on the journalist essentially creates a chain reaction of events that lasts for almost the entire first-half of the film before there's even any progression of the storyline. It's like an extended opening sequence that ultimately makes up the whole first act. But, basically, with the journalist hospitalized and an inherent hospital-slasher element, the film consists of Ironside's character pursuing the journalist as a young female nurse gets caught in the middle of it. In the meantime, we learn more about the nurse (a possibly bi-curious single mother of two kids) and get a glimpse into the sick mind of the antagonist as he goes about his pathetic existence. We also learn about his background and what caused to be an effeminate misogynist sociopath, if that makes any sense. Unlike most slashers, there's no mystery element to this one whatsoever. Not only do we know the killer's identity right off the bat, but he also has a lot of screen time as well.

VISITING HOURS is a very memorable and noteworthy film for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how gross and sleazy (and wet) Michael Ironside is in this. A particular confrontation he has with one of the many interesting female characters is like something out of Lucio Fulci's NEW YORK RIPPER.

While telling a simple stalk-and-slash type of story, VISITING HOURS does a great job of creating suspense and tension - psychologically and cinematically - without pandering to the audience. There's also a lot to be said about how the film portrays gender and takes liberties with the expectations of the roles that men and women play in horror (or genre films in general for that matter). Granted there's the nurse character, who's essentially an unconventional Final Girl, but she's contrasted by a killer who's a coward, which, at times, sort of makes her the predator by default. The game of cat and mouse goes both ways in this movie, which is really interesting. There's also the journalist, whose profession causes her to put on a tough facade and write checks with her mouth that her ass can't cash, and her knight in shining armor (played by "The Shat" William Shatner), who basically just provides emotional support rather than give her the security she obviously needs. Finally, there's the hooker with the heart of gold, who adds another dimension to the roles that women play in this story.

Yeah, so this is definitely a slasher, albeit not your typical example - and not a particularly exciting or "fun" one for that matter. There's no emphasis on body count, nor is there a guy in a mask who's seemingly just killing people because they're "breaking the rules". However, it does some interesting stuff with the slasher structure (or at least what was established of a slasher "structure" at the time this was made), in that you have three classes of women who sort of collectively embody the traditional Final Girl and a killer who's exposed to the point where you can almost feel sorry for him. The only disappointing thing about this movie is its lack of a memorable musical score - nit-picky on my part, but this has everything else going for it, so why not. But then again, more often than not, the silence and lack of music works to its advantage.

Score: 7

1 comment:

  1. I remember being really creeped out as a kid seeing the trailer with hospital lights going out other than a handful that stay on, and form the image of a skull. I didn't see it till years later, and wow, what a great movie. It's totally sleazy and unsettling without having to show a lot of bloodshed. Far better than HOSPITAL MASSACRE, even with Barbi Benton. Great write up, Aaron.