Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- Visiting Hours (1982)

Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- Visiting Hours (1982)

Some of my favourite childhood memories involved me being in a local video shop (and there were quite a few in my area) and poring over the lurid and sleazy artwork for the horror movies. In the 80’s video shops were like art galleries for weirdos and I was (and proudly still am) one of these freaks.

One of the video artworks that I was obsessed with was for the Canadian movie Visiting Hours.

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When I rented the movie I wasn’t disappointed.

I love horror movies based in hospitals especially if they’re made in the early 80’s and are really nasty. Another example is, of course, Halloween 2 which is a peach of a movie. But Visiting Hours is also a great movie. And the hospital the film is set in seems to be a hundred times bigger than Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and has more than ten people in the whole establishment (staff included).

Visiting Hours concerns Colt Hawker (no, his character isn’t a gay porn actor even though his name sounds like he should be) who is obsessed with Deborah Ballin, a TV journalist who campaigns for female victims of domestic violence at the hands of their partners. She is shown defending one such woman who was driven to murder her husband after he had abused her. Hawker is triggered by this because of a childhood memory he has that recalls his mother throwing a pan of boiling oil in his father’s face after he had tried to beat her.

Hawker invades Ballin’s home and sets out to kill her. After a really nasty confrontation, Ballin is injured but survives and is taken to the local General Hospital. Colt learns where she is and starts to stalk her.

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What a double bill!

It’s in the hospital that most of the film’s action now takes place. It’s interesting to see that Colt will adapt any variety of aliases and roles to get to his quarry- nurse, orderly, surgeon and finally, patient.

Deborah seems to be so hated by him that even those who sing her praises or sympathise with her now being a victim of male violence become a target for Hawker. Nurse Sheila Monroe becomes one such with Hawker following her home to find out her address and later in the film invading it. Any strong woman is an enemy of Hawker’s and needs to be dealt with accordingly.

Of course, with such a villain and his repugnant views, the film was labelled as ‘misogynistic’ on its release. But several things make me think it’s actually a very conservative depiction of the kind of violence some women are subjected to. Yes, we get to see the sheer horror of Hawker and the crimes he carries out against the women he sees as assertive and liberated. But we also have the film’s final act in which the balance is reset and, without giving the ending away, a levelling of the playing fields with an ending that sees Hawker getting the justice he deserves and at the hands of one of the people he wanted to dish it out to. Ballin gets to experience first-hand what she’s only ever had to talk about regarding other women’s lives. There is more retribution by female characters in the film but I’m not going to ruin the film with spoilers here.

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Loving this Turkish poster for the film sooo much! A sex scene starring Andrew Stevens whilst Jack Torrence watches outside with a knife. Needless to say, none of this happens in Visiting Hours. But it would make a kickass sequel. It’s not too late.

Also, Visiting Hours doesn’t titillate with its depiction of violence against some of the female characters within the film. And that’s a huge reason why I don’t think it’s misogynistic. It feels like the film has serious things to say about violence against women rather than making a trashy and extreme shocker.

Visiting Hours feels utterly serious and is almost devoid of any kind of humour or lighter moments. It’s also nasty and mean spirited in tone. In other words, it’s perfect for an early 80’s slasher movie. Unfortunately, the BBFC didn’t agree and the film suffered several cuts for its cinema release. These cuts were sustained for the eventual video release and the film was also (albeit briefly) put on the Video Nasties list.

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The casting of the film is also pinpoint perfect which is a major part as to why the film succeeds so brilliantly. Michael Ironside is just as amazing here as Hawker as he was in Scanners as Daryl Revok. He really was fantastic at playing psychopaths. In fact, when I see Ironside’s name on a cast list I know that it will be well worth a watch. Lee Grant is fantastic as crusading feminist Ballin and Linda Purl hits just the right tone as nurse Munroe. On top of that, we get star power through William Shatner being a cast member and we even get to see the guy with the bald head and moustache from Cagney and Lacey.

But the hospital setting is a major part of why this film is so damned effective. Hospitals have always struck me as macabre places and this film feeds into this further. It’s why I love hospitals and this film so much.

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Review- Humongous (1982)

Review- Humongous (1982)

The pre-credits sequence for Humongous involves a woman being raped but then rescued by her German Shepherd dogs.

The film then moves forward to a bunch of kids going sailing and becoming stranded on an island supposedly populated by the woman featured earlier and her dogs.

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This film is a massive borefest. Unlikeable teens, a non-existent plot, a complete absence of tension and a picture that is wayyy too dark (although I’m wondering if this is just the print used for the DVD. Also, the sound was really bad. Maybe that was also the result of a bad print. If not, why film a movie that’s too dark and sounds like the sound recordist is having an acid trip? If it is just the print, I’d actually sit through a Blu ray restoration if a decent print was found and both sound and vision were cleaned up. I’m curious to see a version of the film where you can see and hear what’s actually happening).

There’s even a sequence that is a complete rip-off of part of Friday the 13th Part 2 (a much better film).

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An ad featuring three great films. And Humongous.

But the real shocker here is that this film was made by Paul Lynch who directed Prom Night, a movie that is as great as this is terrible.

Also, Janit Baldwin from the much better movie Ruby is underused as part of the cast here and she’s made to have possibly the worst hairstyle I think I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. In fact, if they filmed her getting this brown bird’s nest of a ‘do’ instead of what we see on the island, it would be more suspenseful and horrifying.

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The real horror of this movie- Janit Baldwin’s hair-don’t.

Watch Prom Night, Ruby or Friday the 13th Part 2 instead of this turkey. If you want island shockers also check out Island of Death and Anthropophagus The Beast. But avoid this film. It’s an hour and a half you’ll never claw back.

Grade- E