Heady times the 80s were. And what a time for schlocky slasher cinema. Seriously. There’s just soo much of it that sometimes deciding on just one to write about is nigh impossible. And so, we turn once again to the origin of our wee project, the legendary Cinema Coffee Can, to make the decision for us. Today’s lucky contestant is none other than Visiting Hours from 1982.
It did okay. A $6 million budget and a $13.3 million gross are some not bad numbers for the age of Laura Branigan and Flock Of Seagulls. As slasher flicks go, this is also still pretty early in the history of the subgenre, so we’re still setting up a good many characteristics that will become quickly played out by the time, say, 1985 rolls around. That said, Visiting Hours still ain’t half bad. Or half good.
Lee Grant plays Deborah Ballin, an outspoken feminist who rouses the ire of a serial killer, the misogynistic Colt Hawker, a hot off the set of Scanners Michael Ironside. Hawker attacks her, and while he doesn’t manage to kill her, the attack does land her in the hospital which, as settings go, always ups the uneasiness factor.
This obviously makes her easy prey, and what follows is some blood-soaked but pretty standard (though sometimes dosorienting) cat-and-mouse fare. The action moves all over the place, especially focusing on Hawker in numerous locations inside as well as outside the hospital.
That said, there ain’t a whole helluva lot in Visiting Hours that most genre fans would consider all that grisly. We get stabbing, neck snapping, an IV pulled out, life support cut off, and a fine defenestration. That last always gladdens the frozen pit where my heart should be (if nothing else, cuz I can say defenestration). And yet, the movie still made Britain’s second list of Video Nasties: movies that were considered offensive but never actually prosecuted.
What is troubling is the story’s questionable subtext. It suggests that being or merely associating with an outspoken feminist makes you a target for a killer. Deborah is stalked by Hawker. Sheila, the nurse she befriends, becomes Hawker’s secondary focus simply by virtue of her admiration of Deborah’s political stance. All of this stems from childhood when Hawker looks on as his mother throws hot cooking oil at her abusive husband. Strength makes women bad it would seem.
Grant is pretty good here, looking vaguely like Amanda Plummer from time to time. It’s worth pointing out that Grant’s career was effectively shipwrecked for over a decade by the good ol’ House Unamerican Activities Committee after she refused to throw her husband, Arnold Manoff, under the McCarthyism bus.
Ironside presents what will become his standard menacing self, and as Deborah’s boss, Gary, William Shatner is, well, William Shatner. Spoiler, our hopes for his demise remain sadly unfulfilled. As for the director, Jean-Claude Lord, he’ll eventually soar to such cinematic heights as The Vindicator and Eddie And The Cruisers II.
Ah, heady times indeed.
BODIES- 8 onscreen, 1 off