Directed by Boaz Davidson, David Paulsen
Distributed by The Scream Factory
Of all the subgenres that exist within horror, slashers have traditionally been a fan favorite. Though the subgenre (arguably) kicked off with 1974’s Black Christmas, it didn’t gain traction in cinemas until films like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) became major hits. And so began a “golden age” of sorts for the slasher film, which lasted right up until the mid-‘80s. For all the icons these films have produced, however, there have been countless others that have fallen by the wayside over the years. Shout! Factory has paired up two of them (likely since neither title would sell enough on its own to justify a release) – 1982’s X-Ray, and 1980’s Schizoid – in a fun, delightfully gory little package that should at least have minor appeal to fans of gloriously cheesy ‘80s stalk-and-slash fare.
Barbi Benton was quite the busy, busty Playmate in the ‘70s. Primarily known for her television work, X-Ray was one of only a handful of films she starred in during her career. Here she plays Susan Jeremy, a woman who visits her local hospital for a routine checkup required for a new job. But someone in the hospital has other plans for Susan! A someone who, 19 years earlier, she had scorned when he professed his unrequited love for her. He also killed a fellow child at the time, but apparently the police were really bad at their jobs back then, so he was never caught. Anyway, Susan’s results are faked to show she has a serious illness, leading another physician to strongly recommend she stay the night for further tests. As expected, the killer stalks the hallways of the most abandoned hospital seen on film since Halloween II (1981), brutally killing nurses, patients, and doctors alike with some nasty surgical implements.
Firstly, I have another titling issue with another Shout! release. X-Ray is technically the title of the heavily-cut version of the film, which runs around 77 minutes. This fully uncut version should really be titled Hospital Massacre, which is how it’s recognized on IMDB and Wikipedia. Or if Shout! wanted to get all kinds of crazy, they could’ve gone with the original pre-release title of Be My Valentine, or Else…, which is superior to the first title it had, Ward 13. Whew! So, just in case anyone who actually remembers all of that was concerned, this is indeed the full uncut version, just released under the cut name. >i>Capiche?
Although it would be easy to objectively call the film a bit of a slog to get through, the fact is that it embodies much of what slasher fans love. The threadbare plot exists only to further the murderous rampage of Harold, whose identity is concealed well enough that his reveal is a minor surprise. Every doctor employed here acts like a creep, and every nurse treats Susan like a mental patient who missed her morning dose of pills. Among the small cast of characters is a hospital drunk – a clear red herring – who stumbles around with bottle in hand, while nurses shrug off his antics and remind him to return to his room. Everyone is so indifferent to her claims that I half expected them to reveal everyone was in on the plot to kill her.
The kills here are fairly nasty, with Harold making use of the many hospital tools at his disposal. And his victims make it really easy, too. Seriously, it seems like no one makes any kind of effort to, I don’t know, just turn and run. Most just stand there, apparently so consumed with fear that they’re unable to move. One guy is attacked with a corded surgical saw; a death that could have been avoided if he simply walked another foot or two away so the cord wouldn’t reach. But, again, this is the kind of nonsensical, nasty murdering fans should be expecting here. The film doesn’t skimp on the red stuff, ensuring that everyone’s demise is met with a crimson wave. Hell, Harold even manages to one-up My Bloody Valentine’s Harry Warden with his own take on a wrapped box of chocolates.
What would a slasher be without some gratuitous T&A? Fear not. Benton was a former Playmate, after all. And one of her strange, lecherous doctors is more than willing to insist she strip down for an uncomfortably scintillating exam. Director Boaz Davidson mentions there was a full crew on set that day, and when Benton’s ample assets are pored over it’s easy to see why. X-Ray might not be a great film, or even good by some standards, but as a de facto slasher it’s got enough going for it to satisfy fans yearning for lesser-known ‘80s sleaze.
Schizoid, on the other hand, moves at a positively glacial pace. This 1980 turkey is paired up with a slasher, but in reality this film plays more like a giallo. Killer wears black gloves (nice nod to Argento)? Check. Red herrings a-plenty? Check. Overly-complicated plot? Sadly, no. This one is mostly mundane. Klaus Kinski – don’t get too excited, he isn’t playing crazy here – is Dr. Fales, a therapist who oversees a group of patients. One by one, the members of the group are being killed. Julie (Marianna Hill), a member of the group, has been receiving threatening letters at her office, where she works as an advice columnist for the local paper. What follows is a slow game of stalk-and-kill, and Julie has to figure out who’s behind it all before she’s next! It could be almost any member of the male cast. Maybe it is Dr. Fales, who despite being a trollish slug of a man beds every nubile female in his group. Or, perhaps Gilbert (a young, mustachioed Christopher Lloyd), the maintenance man who constantly stares at everyone in silent, creepy ways. No? How about Doug (Craig Wassom), Julie’s ex-husband who is clearly still infatuated with her? Oh, wait, I know, it’s got to be Dr. Fales daughter, Alison (Donna Wilkes). You know the one who remains mute for almost half of the movie before spending the second half pitching major fits at the dinner table and brandishing firearms. Maybe in some strange twist Julie is actually sending herself the lette- nah, that’s probably not it.
Despite the undeniable ennui that set in once this film got going, I can’t really say I totally disliked it. This is the kind of shit I grew up with, and despite having never seen this film before I could still appreciate it for what it tries to do. It’s almost laughable how many people are suspects in the cast. Literally half of the main players could be the killer, which is de rigueur for any giallo. And we’ve got quite a cast, too. Kinski is always great fun to watch, but here he’s just a weird old sexual deviant with a therapy practice; he’s not chewing scenery and crapping thunder like the days of old. Donna Wilkes seriously speaks two words in the first 45 minutes, then in the last half of the film she goes right off the rails. She’s also wears some bizarre, noir-ish outfit for the climax. Craig Wassom should be familiar to horror fans as Dr. Neil Gordon from A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: The Dream Warriors (1987). The film also features a young Christopher Lloyd, who looks very different with dark hair and a mustache. This was one of his earliest film credits, though he was already an established name thanks to his work on Taxi (1978-1983). Finally, the great Richard Herd is teamed up with Joe Regalbuto as a couple of cops who are actively investigating the case. This film could have easily fallen completely apart with a lesser cast, but everyone here turns in a good enough performance that the material is elevated.
The ending blows, though. It’s totally weak. I won’t spoil anything except to say that people seem to die in this movie very quickly from what would normally be minor and/or non-life threatening wounds. This is usually the norm for films of this ilk (we’re still years away from torture porn), but it totally kills any impact the finale might have had.
X-Ray sports a widescreen image that generally looks free of debris and damage, though grain is a bit on the thick side – on occasion it borders on noise, but aesthetics such as this tend to lend themselves well to old-school horror. Some scenes have a hazy appearance, almost like there was a little bit of smoke pumped on to the set. Black levels are anemic for the most part, usually never looking consistent or even totally dark. Colors are mostly good, however, and Barbi Benton’s lips look shinier than a freshly waxed car. The DTS-HD MA stereo track gets the job done with a soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Harry Manfredini’s cues for Friday the 13th (1980) and Goldsmith’s work on The Omen (1976). Dialogue sounds clear and is free of any hisses, pops, or crackling.
Schizoid looks a bit better, with far less grain (though it is still very much present) and a nice color palette. Fine details are slightly more apparent than they were on X-Ray, although I wouldn’t call this a sharp image by any means. Closeups do exhibit an appreciable amount of detail, though. Black levels are more rich and consistent here, too. Audio-wise this is no better than the first half of this double bill, but I will say that I dug the synth-heavy, funky electronic score here more than X-Ray’s derivative tones. Neither disc includes subtitles.
There’s one lone bonus feature on
Separately, they’re mediocre. But together, Shout! has provided a package worthy of any horror fan’s collection. Just the pedigree of both films having been released under the Cannon Films label and featuring production by the legendary Israel duo of Golan/Globus should be enough to convince people this is worth a spot on their shelf.
3 out of 5
2 out of 5
2 out of 5