Visiting Hours (1982)


Visiting Hours (1982)
Cast:  Lee Grant, William Shatner, Michael Ironside
Director:  Jean-Claude Lord
Nutshell:  uninspired slasher fare that inexplicably got banned during the Video Nasties era.


Lee Grant plays a feisty feminist reporter bent on telling it like it is regardless of the feathers she may ruffle along the way.  Somewhere in a miserable fleapit apartment somewhere in an ugly metropolis there is a man caring for his father but seemingly seething with some sort of rage.  He is adorned with piercings (actually most of them are clip-ons!) all over his body and face wearing a constant scowl and is prone to pressing rubber balls in his hand when frustrated.  His specialty is to write letters of complaints to the press and radio stations and anyone who will take the time to read his diatribes.  We are shown flashbacks oh his father rubbing him awkwardly at times during playtime and also the same father beating his mother up viciously time and again.

The director piles it on thick to let the audience know that our killer carries a lot of psychological scars and baggage and this is what motivates him to target innocent young women to somehow appease his resentment.  The odd thing is that at no stage was he mistreated by his mother and nor was she some sort of nasty abusive prostitute or crackhead who he grew up to resent and hate.  It was the father figure who was the object of all the horror during his formative years and yet he carries with him this rage and resentment against women which just doesn’t add up at all.  Clearly the man is unbalanced but to present him as someone who hates a strong woman having witnessed what he did as a child is just dreadful Hollywood psychology.

The film starts with the killer getting all riled at Ms. Grants fiery questioning of the perception of violence against women.  He gets mad enough to head out to her home and attempt to kill her in her own home but she escapes miraculously.  He does manage to wound her badly enough for her to be hospitalized for a period of time until her wounds are taken care of.  The killer now decides to dress his van up as a flower delivery service and heads off towards the hospital with the intention of completing the job he failed to do when he attacked Ms. Grant at her home.

Lee Grant is being drugged for an operation but is still conscious enough to notice that one of the doctor’s in the operation theatre is her stalker but she wakes up after her operation quite safe, at least for the time being.  Meanwhile one by one quite mysteriously some of the patients and the nurses start to drop dead and eventually the police realize that they have a spree killer on their hands who will stop at nothing in order to reach his ultimate goal; Lee Grant, the anti-man bitch reporter who needs to obviously be taught a lesson.

And so, the hospital turns into a maze of hallways where a deadly game of cat and mouse is set with the stalker inexorably closing in on his target and the target somehow, desperately trying every trick in the book to stay alive.

The film was released in 1982 as the slasher phase post Halloween and Friday the 13th was peaking and managed to turn a profit despite having little to surprise audiences with.  Slasher audiences were quick to get used to the tricks of the game and those directors who didn’t have a flair for the genre were found wanting very badly as their lack of visual flair for this sort of story telling proved a major drawback.  It was simple; either you managed to scare increasingly savvy audiences by somehow reinventing the wheel with every new horror film or then you increased the death scene gore and effects to make jaws drop in shock and horror which is where magicians like Tom Savini stepped in.  Visiting Hours was backed by a major Hollywood studio and starred established and “respected” actors Lee Grant and William Shatner which gave the film the kind of respectability that most films of its kind fail to achieve.

The film itself is utterly uninspired and has absolutely no visual flair or style to compare it with John Carpenters masterfully stylish Halloween or event he Grand Guignol gruesome shock horror fare of Friday the 13th.  Here was mainstream studio trying to do a slasher film and failing miserably.  The film suffers from an infernal pace and a total lack of tension as the director is seemingly incapable of creating even a single set piece where he can try to play his audience.  It never happens and the audience, rather than being rapt and manipulated to attention by a master director is fighting off bouts of sleep because of inertia and boredom.

Visiting Hours drags on in the fashion of a particularly lame episode of some drab TV detective action series from the 60s or 70s.  Lee Grant huffs and puffs but looks bored most of the time while William Shatner is just cashing his pay check while Michael Ironside tries his best to appear menacing and looks like a constipated buffoon instead.

It’s a particularly dull slasher film despite its studio pedigree and utterly fails to deliver either scares, shocks or even laughs.  The gore is virtually non-existent and the few stabbing scenes are so amateurishly handled that is palpably clear that a dummy or a pillow is being stabbed rather than anything remotely human flesh like.

Quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to this totally forgettable and very dull movie was that somehow it managed to get listed as a Video Nasty and that was the only reason it would have been even noticed and watched.  Other than this fact there is nothing of any merit and even for die hard slasher movie fans it will be difficult to get excited by any of the scenes on display here from beginning to end.

Visiting Hours is a particularly tedious slasher film with nothing to recommend at all.