After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a psycho killer in a hospital.
In 1982 a director originally from Palestine named Boaz Davidson released two films. They are both as awesome as his first name. The most widely known is the coming-of-age sex “comedy” The Last American Virgin. This film is probably one of the very few teen sex flicks out there that ends as more of a downer than anything else. A great film and one I highly recommend, especially for the kick ass soundtrack. But also in that same year he brought forth unto the world Hospital Massacre (aka X-Ray). This fills that void in the very narrow niche where we needed a Valentine’s themed slasher film that is set almost entirely in a hospital!
We open with a couple of kids, around ten years old, engaging in the grand tradition of playing with toy trains for Valentine’s Day (simpler times, I guess), while another creepy kid watches from the window. Soon his advances, in the form of a homemade heart-shaped card, are crushed and mocked by the two youngsters. When the little girl returns to the room after slicing up some cake with what appears to be a scimitar she finds her companion dead and hanging from a coatrack.
Fast forward nineteen years to present day when our female lead, Susan (Barbi Benton), is being driven to the hospital to get some test results. While her useless boyfriend waits in his car she spends a long afternoon-into-night in the building trying to get her results as people die around her. Someone seems to be trying his hardest to keep her in the hospital. Soon it becomes apparent that this mysterious mad doctor has it out for Susan and she has to find a way out before she meets her end.
Ned: Hey wait, isn’t this that hospital where they had all that trouble last year?
Susan: What trouble?
Ned: Some patient ran amok or something.
Susan: Oh please, I’ll see you in a minute.
I’m still not quite sure why this had to be set in a hospital and on Valentine’s Day. I understanding wanting to do one or the other, but did they have to be in the same movie? Nothing about hospitals scream love and/or romance, but who am I to second guess Boaz and screenwriter Marc Behm? Furthermore, this is the most inept hospital on the planet. I’ve never seen one so desolate and lacking any activity. A woman is running the halls screaming, bodies are piling up everywhere, but no one is the wiser. You would think there would be a security guard somewhere or, at the very least, a few orderlies hanging around.
This is all part of the grand attempt to create some sense of suspense and confusion within the film. There are random music swells around meaningless events and enhanced by the film almost grinding to a halt in the middle with Ned looking for Susan in the hospital. I know the filmmakers meant well, but it gets downright boring and silly because there are so many “shocking” moments and scenes with dramatic music that it just becomes commonplace. They also attempt to throw so many red herrings at you. Every person you come across, from the doctors to the asshole ex-husband, could be the psycho on the loose. But do we really need this? Is it not obvious that the kid from the beginning is going to be the killer? We even know his name so there is really no surprise! The shock would’ve been if they had made it someone else completely.
Since the suspense is a fail, there are plenty of good things going on in this flick. For one there is a high body count with some entertaining death scenes. We have bodies stuck in lockers, stabbed with syringes, drowned in acid, and even strangled by a stethoscope. You have to give it to this film for not skimping on the the kills, and at least we get to see Barbi, a former Playboy model and lover of Hugh Hefner, strip down in a very creepy examination scene.
What this film really does right is the ridiculous. So much so in fact, that it’s hard to pick where to begin. This hospital comes equipped with a random ever-drunk patient who wonders the halls unsupervised drinking booze and eating hamburgers that drip ketchup. He’s quite creepy, and not only because he kind of looks like Neil Patrick Harris in 30 years. Then there’s Susan’s boyfriend. Sigh. This fool drives her to the hospital, stays in his parked car directly in front of the building (which I’m assuming is an illegal parking job), falls asleep and doesn’t go in to look for her until hours later after it’s good and dark. What a tool. I’m sure this isn’t the type of Valentine’s day she wanted – but I guess neither was being chased by a killer/jilted admirer from her past.
Oh, there’s also this gem during an exchange between Susan and one of the doctors.
Doctor: I’m afraid we’re going to have to keep you here for a while.
Doctor: There’s some discrepancies in the the test. We’ll have to keep you under observation for a few days.
Susan: Is it serious?
Doctor: No, it’s nothing.
Susan: You can tell me the truth. Is it serious?
Doctor: Yeah, it might be.
There we have it. A great slasher flick from the early 80s that I highly recommend, even though it gets a bit slow in the middle. For all the lulls there are plenty of fun, bloody moments to make up for the dullness. Unfortunately there is not a remastered DVD of this currently but I’ve got my fingers crossed for one in the future. We need this in our lives!
Until next week – NEVER fall asleep in your car when out with a woman on Valentine’s Day!
Body Count: 10
Best Death: Stabbed Through the Back of the Throat While Looking at X-Rays
First Glimpse of the Mad Doctor: 6:26
When Susan’s Boyfriend Finally Wakes Up: 46:20 (after her leaving the car at 6:12)
Red Herrings: 5
Number of Valentine’s Theme Slashers Where the Killer is Named Harry: 2 – This and My Bloody Valentine
Coming Soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-2/22/12: Necropolis (1987)
-2/29/12: Silent Madness (1984)
-3/7/12: Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)