Visiting Hours (1982)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-08-26 20:59

Written by: Brian Taggert
Directed by: Jean-Claude Lord
Starring: Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl, and William Shatner

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďDon't leave me. He's here. I know it!Ē

The preposterous glut of slasher movies in the 80s sort of necessitates a quick way to file some of them away in your mind. In the case of Visiting Hours, itís always been ďthat one with William Shatner in a hospitalĒ to me, which is actually kind of a terribly inaccurate description. Sure, itís got Shat and a hospital, but Visiting Hours should probably best be remembered for Michael Ironsideís ludicrous pursuit to maim or kill a bunch of women inside and outside of hospitals.

Ironside is Colt Hawker, this nutty misogynist guy who decides he wants to kill feminist activist Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) when she makes a television appearance. He wastes no time and attacks her when she returns home; she narrowly escapes, but not without a bunch of injuries that land her in the hospital. That obviously isnít going to deter Hawker, who continues his dogged quest; along the way, he canít help himself and also targets a nurse (Linda Purl, looking immaculate) who befriends Deborah.

Though Iím being a bit cheeky about Ironsideís steadfast determination to killing broads (more on that in a bit), Visiting Hours is actually much different than many of its contemporaries because itís about as straight-laced as a slasher comes. This isnít one of those movies that gathers a bunch of dimwitted teens together to kill them off in some over-the-top fashion because theyíre fucking around (literally and figuratively, of course). That said, this one isnít a huge step above those type of movies, as itís still mostly a mindless stalk and slash flick that plays at being a bit psychological. Itís an overlong and repetitive one at that, mostly because it canít decide who the main character is; Grant spends much of the film confined to a hospital bed, at which point Purl takes over as the lead. Though the film brings the two together in logical fashion, thereís still something a bit disjointed and aimless about the whole thing. Neither lead character is particularly memorable, which doesnít help, and you only really perk up when the movie remembers to be a slasher.

Speaking of our slasher, Ironside isnít given a whole lot more to work with; his distinctive voice is rarely on display, as he just sort of skulks around and kills anyone that gets in his way (even a sweet old lady in the hospital). If you couldnít guess, this guy isnít messing around, and despite the limitations of the script, Ironside oozes that sort of seething, intense menace thatís necessary. As a psychopath, heís very typical--heís got daddy issues because his father slapped around his mom a lot, which I suppose explains why heís so intent on hating women. Heís got a single-minded commitment to that for sure, and itís aided by the fact that heís a maniacal jack-of-all trades who is able to infiltrate places with disguises and whatnot. Apparently, heís got a ready-made florist sign to tack onto his car whenever he needs to pretend to deliver flowers; say what you want, but you canít say that his misogyny has hindered his ability to plan and think critically.

The movie has a bit of a thoughtful undercurrent with its shallow musings on violence and abused women. One of the running threads involves Grantís insistence on non-violence, which is of course tested by her traumatic experiences; the ultimate resolution of the film has some interesting psychological implications, I guess, as youíll question just who ďwon,Ē really. There are long stretches where Visiting Hours plays like a Lifetime Movie on the Week, what with its battered women being stalked by a big, bad, evil man. All of this is undercut by a pretty stupid act by one of the girls that Ironside takes home and rapes; for whatever reason, he lets her go, and she ends up going to a womenís clinic, where she refuses to say who bruised the hell out of her face. Had she done the logical thing and gone to the police, further bloodshed could have been avoided; I know you can argue that itís a realistic reaction, but the film doesnít bother to explore the cerebral underpinnings of it all. Instead, itís just a device that allows the film to lurch along for another thirty minutes.

And does it ever plod; this is a very monotonous movie with cheap scares and cheaper thrills. Expect a bunch of fake outs, jolts, and a bit of grisly on-screen violence. Ironside racks up a bit of a body count, but this isnít a gore showcase. Did I mention that Shatner is in this? Well, he is, and heís Grantís boss, who really has no reason to exist other than heís William Shatner (and itís kind of amazing that he already had his trademark persona down pat here 30 years ago). Maybe the film needed more Canadian star power to accompany Ironside. Produced in Quebec by the CFDC and a couple other Canadian outfits, Visiting Hours was eventually a negative pick-up for Fox, who needed to keep riding the slasher gravy train. Its home video distribution has now landed in the lap of Shout Factory, who is set to release it on a double feature alongside Bad Dreams (I guess itís meant to be a clinical twin bill). At any rate, the film is housed on its own disc, so itís got an optimal presentation, complete with a strong anamorphic transfer and a robust stereo track. The only special features include the usual fluffy promo stuff (trailers, radio spots, TV spots). Youíre essentially getting two underseen (and average) 80s horror flicks for the price of one, which will be worthwhile for those who havenít seen it. But I think most will be content to just give this one a cursory visit. Rent it!

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