Starring Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl, William Shatner, and Lenore Zann
Directed by Jean-Claude Lord
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Ask any horror fan over 30 what decade was best for the slasher sub-genre, and I can guarantee you’ll be met with one solid answer out of many — the Eighties. Once a trend gets hot (i.e., the slew of zombie films that have come out theatrically and direct-to-video over the past couple of years), it seems as if Hollyweird cannot churn these puppies out fast enough. Without question the decade of choice for slasher fans is obvious and for good reason. We had them all in their prime. From the superstars like Jason, Freddy, and Michael to the second stringers like Harry Warden, Cropsy, The Prowler, and Mad Man Marz. Blood-hungry audiences could always count on a new killer to scare the shit out of them come the weekend. While slasher films are still popular, they’ve lost a few steps. The main thing that has gone wrong is that the killers’ victims have become the stars of the film instead of the killers themselves. Or maybe there are just too many WB cast members being thrown into fray. If I hear the term “hot young cast” used one more time, I’m likely to become a slasher myself. Of my own wrists that is. Enter Visiting Hours. Making its DVD debut from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Visiting Hours is a vintage slasher that does everything right.
How many times have we seen someone on TV, be it on a talk show or whatever, and thought to ourselves, “Man, I wish they would just shut the fuck up and listen for a change“? That’s just the case here when it comes to TV commentator Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant). She’s outspoken, ballsy, and has just gotten the attention of a young and crazed killer, Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside). Having heard enough of Ballin’s theatrics, Colt takes it upon himself to finally “make her listen.” The result is a taut and at times scary romp around a hospital with one of the dumbest staffs on the planet.
Visiting Hours is set apart from the usual slasher fodder for a few reasons, the first being the cast itself. Nowhere to be found are the horny teens with their marijuana and penchant for pre-martial sex. Humping and pot smoking have become synonymous with gettin’ killed in these movies, so it’s nice to see one go a bit against the usual grain. Instead we get a wonderful cast. The beautiful Lee Grant and Linda Purl serve as our main eye candy, and supporting them are a thoroughly insane Michael Ironside and the always emoting William Shatner and his hairpiece. The acting is truly top-shelf, and even for the Eighties that’s saying something for a slasher flick. In fact the only real problem in Visiting Hours is the script itself. People do rather silly things, and the police characters do nothing short of get you infuriated. Victim: “I’ve got a killer in my house!” Cop: “Sorry lady. I can’t leave this scene without orders.” You get what I am saying.
Another thing you’ll notice right away about Visiting Hours is the lack of gore. While the film does have its moments, there’s not a single memorable killing in it. That’s okay, though. It doesn’t need it. While it may be light on the red stuff, one thing it has by the barrel full is suspense. Visiting Hours was meant to make you sweat and get you nervous. Even so many years later despite being privy to every film cliche imaginable in abundance, this baby still does its job. That, my friends, is the sign of competent filmmaking at its finest.
The DVD itself, however, is a bit of a letdown. Other than a radio spot and some TV spots, there’s really nothing to speak of. But on the technical side of things the film has never looked or sounded better. Up until this point I’ve been stuck watching my crappy VHS tape, so to say this is a step up is an understatement. The TV spots with the lights turning off on the hospital building until all that is left is a skull (see the box art) definitely tickled the old nostalgia button, but I couldn’t help wanting a little more. Oh well, at least this little seen gem is finally home.
Visiting Hours is a must for horror fans and slasher buffs. It plays no worse for wear than it did in 1982, and its scares still pack punch. After all, what’s spookier than coming home to find Michael Ironside nude, bejeweled, and waiting for you in the dark with a knife? And you thought his head explosion from Scanners got ya! Oy. *shudder*
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