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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Horror > Revenge > Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: B-



The Canadian-made Visiting Hours (1982) belongs with The Fan (1981) as slasher movies that tried to camouflage what they were by casting legitimate actors.  And like The Fan, which starred Lauren Bacall as a Broadway actress stalked by a young psychotic (Michael Biehn), Visiting Hours does manage to rise above the usual dead teenager formula so prevalent in the early 1980s.


After making a big impression as bad scanner Darryl Revok in David Cronenberg's Scanners a year earlier, Michael Ironside went on to play an even scarier guy in Visiting Hours.  Ironside does such a good job at portraying such a menacing and completely despicable villain in his second major film that it's no wonder he's been typecast as a heavy throughout much of his career.  Looking like Jack Nicholson's younger brother and sounding a lot like John Saxon, Ironside puts an everyman face on the mad slasher, who'd become a masked phantom in so many other horror films at the time.


Ironside plays Colt Hawker, a sadistic psychopath who gets off on killing people and taking pictures of them as they gasp for their last breaths.  In flashbacks we see that Colt was abused as a child and never recovered from a childhood incident where he witnessed his mother dump boiling water on his abusive father.  As an adult, Colt clearly hates women, especially strong women, and has developed a hateful obsession with a feminist news reporter named Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant).


After surviving an attack by Colt inside her home one night, Deborah is taken to a major metropolitan hospital, and Colt spends the rest of the movie devising ways to get into the hospital to finish her off.  The killer in the hospital plot is reminiscent of another slasher flick from 1981, Halloween II.


Considerable screen time is also devoted to a young nurse and single mother (Linda Purl), who Colt begins to stalk.  But despite receiving second billing, William Shatner is given very little to do here as Deborah's TV producer.  Harvey Atkin, a veteran of many Canadian tax-shelter films from the late '70s and early '80s, appears as a garrulous patient.  With Ironside and Atkin in the same film, you can bet it's Canadian.


Some of Visiting Hours is disturbing and unpleasant, but the film serves its purpose.  Unlike sicko quasi-snuff films of today such as Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, which glorifies the violent, senseless crimes of homicidal maniacs, Visiting Hours serves as a kind of cautionary tale that shows the biggest monsters are often very human.  And it's the kind of pre-political correctness thriller that reminded women to "be careful out there."


Originally distributed (and still owned) by 20th Century Fox when it debuted in theaters in May of '82, Visiting Hours has been given a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer by Anchor Bay.  The extras include four TV spots and a radio spot.  But you come away wishing director Jean-Claude Lord, writer Brian Taggert or especially Ironside had done an audio commentary.



-   Chuck O'Leary


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