Monday, October 12, 2009

Visiting Hours (Jean-Claude Lord, 1982)

Ostensibly crawling with an unending supply of immobile victims, and, not to mention, sporting lax security and easy access, hospitals are the perfect breeding ground for serial killers and rapists. These blights on society are cowards and will do just about anything to lessen the strain of their heinous acts. (Look me, sticking it to murderers and their raping cousins.) The fictional perpetrator in Jean-Claude Lord's Visiting Hours, however, is the opposite of lazy. He's a spry psychopath who just happens to stumble across the advantages of stalking the halls of the local hospital purely by accident. In fact, if wasn't for his general sloppiness as a sleazy killer with woman issues (and I don't mean his issues with his vagina transplant, the dude hates women), he probably wouldn't have discovered the wonders of hospital homicide. Anyway, proving to be quite the improviser when it comes to devising new ways to sneak into hospitals in order to lavish malevolent praise on his intended victim with the sharp end of his fiendishly pointy friend, the killer comes and goes with an alarming ease.

A cautionary tale about the dangers of insecure health care facilities, this Montréal set film that pretends to be set in America is your classic stalker vs. victim endeavour, but with a medical twist. Inflaming the ire of the already unhinged Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside) with her uncompromising support for a woman on trial for killing her abusive husband, a no-nonsense talk show host named Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) finds herself at his deranged mercy. Unperturbed by the fact that Debbie thwarted his initial attack on her by escaping via the laundry shoot located in her spacious home, Colt looks to finish off the severely wounded "journalist" by paying many antisocial visits to the hospital she is recuperating at.

Unhelpful in terms of protecting her ass from being straight up killed while sleeps in her room are the police; who thankfully aren't featured too heavily in this film -- I would have hated if this had turned into a lame procedural. Also unhelpful is a television colleague played by McGill alum William Shatner. In other words, Deborah is basically all alone. Luckily for her, Colt is a tad whimsical when it comes to stalking. Overhearing a young nurse belittle his talents as a lunatic while chatting on the telephone, the impulsive sicko right then and there decides to begin stalking her; he despises strong women, especially one's who criticize psychopaths in public.

Clearly intent on proving to the unaffiliated members of the demented weirdo community that he can stalk multiple victims at once, Colt jumps at the chance to pursue Nurse Monroe (the adorable Linda Purl) in an unromantic fashion. Besides, killing Deborah is turning out to be a lot harder than he thought it'd be, so a change of stalking pace is probably a good idea for all involved. Well, except for Nurse Monroe, who I'm sure doesn't appreciate all this newfound attention.

Armed with a simple switchblade and occasionally seen wearing a leather undershirt, Colt is the only interesting, non-Harvey Atkin aspect about Visiting Hours. Oh, sure, there were handful of other things that scratched my itch, horror wise, like, the point-of-view camera angles and final showdown, but it was Michael Ironside and the character he manages to create with minimal dialogue that keeps the film from being one long clichéd bore. Too repugnant to out-and-out root for, yet too charismatic to openly besmirch, the hopeless disquietude of Ironside's perverted rage made for some mildly fascinating viewing.

The fact that Colt was a bit of genius when it came to gaining entrance to the hospital (which was fortified after a couple of his attempts to kill the object of his murderous desire met with failure) and that he was apparently a voracious letter writer (his wall is a testament to his editorial prowess) were also on the cusp of being fascinating.

Now, there are a number of different reasons to look at Canadian slasher flicks from the early 1980s. The nail biting intensity of the stalking scenes, for example, are always a big draw when it comes to these types of films (the experience can be very primal). However, I mainly watch them for the oft chance I might get to the opportunity to bask in the extraordinary glow that Lenore Zann radiates whenever she is on-screen. It's true, that in the case of Visiting Hours you gonna have to wait quite some time for her to appear. But when she does, it's totally worth it.

The Australian born, but wholly Canadian as far as I'm concerned, actress plays Lisa, a woman with low self-esteem Colt picks up at a scuzzy diner. Displaying the same beguiling sexiness she exhibited in One Night Only, Lenore manages to bring her trademark allure to what is essentially a thankless role. In that, by merely boasting crimped blonde hair, energetic trousers, a gorgeous pink, cyan and black top, and the tightest pair of panties this particular planet has ever seen, she somehow makes garish seem angelic.

I'll admit, the scene where Miss Zann and Mr. Ironside tease each other (her with her large Brittany Murphy style eyes and he with the shiny smoothness of his leather undershirt) was titillating... in a tawdry kind of way. But you could tell something egregious was about to go down. And I must say, that unnerving quality hampered my enchantment to some degree. Still, the sight of Colt's unpretentious switchblade slowly caressing the tantalizing lengthiness of Lenore's world class gams was pretty freaking awesome.


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7 comments:

  1. William Shatner in a horror film... I have to see this one.

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  2. Shatner's barely in it, though. He just shows up at the beginning and end to pick up his paycheck.

    Also: Worst. Serial killer. Ever.

    The guy breaks into the hospital repeatedly, and only manages to kill a couple of patients and a nurse. After a while it started to feel like the bizarre lovechild of a Bugs Bunny cartoon and the Splinter Cell games, which also heavily features Ironside sneaking around in the dark.

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  3. This movie keeps popping up lately. The trailer has been featured on the last few DVDs I've watched, now your review. All signs are telling me to check this movie out. Plus I love Michael Ironside.

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  4. Happy day after Canadian Thanksgiving Day! I hope you had turkey or what y'all eat north of the border.

    You know, I think I've seen this movie. *gasp*

    Oh, by they way, Etobicoke is featured in the Anvil documentary. I know this comment is more appropriate for the previous entry, which I thought I responded to.

    Finally saw the Cincinnati category on Jeopardy. We are so behind! Oh, we also saw Zombieland, which was totally lame.

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  5. TheAnswerMVP2001: If you wanna see a decent mix of horror and Shatner, I'd go with Kingdom of the Spiders instead.

    Knarf Black XIV: I wouldn't go that far (two words: leather undershirt). But yeah, his kills to break-ins ratio was pretty pathetic.

    Rev. Phantom: "Plus I love Michael Ironside." He does make everything seem less crappy.

    Karim Amir: Happy two days after Canadian Thanksgiving Day!

    Yeah, that is kinda gasp worthy. I mean, this thing is low down on the slasher totem pole in terms of being essential viewing.

    I'm not surprised. Etobicoke rocks! (I've only been there once. Okay, maybe twice.)

    The current champ does that cross chest thingy every time he wins a match.

    Yeah? Well, I just happen to have nine incoherent paragraphs in the works that will totally refute your Zombieland is lame claim. ;)

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  6. Never seen this one before. Definitely will have to check it out.

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  7. I'm a huge fan of Michael Ironside, and I have to say, it's certainly, if nothing else, a unique experience watching him in this. Especially in the scene where he bursts out of the bathroom wearing women's jewelry and little else.

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