FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 1, 2006

Film Club: Visiting Hours

Welcome, kids, to the second installment of the Final Girl Film Club. If you decided to hop on board this time, then you sat through the 1982 Canadian slasher flick Visiting Hours...to which I say, "We Film Clubbers sure are a hearty lot!"

The plot of this movie is quite simple: a cuckoo nutso (Michael Ironside) gets a murderous hard-on for TV news reporter Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant). He attacks her in her home but botches the job; Ballin survives and is taken to the county hospital. Mr. Psycho follows and attempts to finish the job.

Ah, so short and so sweet. I must say, the first 15 minutes or so of this movie are pure gold. Once the theme music started, I thought I was in for a real treat. Playing over the opening credits was some sort of awesome early-80s synth track that sounded like the byproduct of a night of sweet sweet lovemaking by the themes of Halloween and Friday the 13th...I was ready to roll, baby! Initially, the film didn't disappoint. The scenes in Ballin's home were definitely intense. Coming home to a quiet house...the shower's running, windows are open...knowing something's wrong, knowing someone's in the house but having no idea where- that's good horror movie mojo at work. By the time Ironside jumped out all naked but for an exorbitant amount of Deborah's clip-on jewelry, I was ready to proclaim my love for Visiting Hours. Girl, and don't even get me started on how much the dumb waiter rocked. I want a dumb waiter. I want to transfer snacks and my cats from floor to floor in an easy fashion.

The high points continued even after the cut-up-but-not-dead reporter was transferred to the hospital. I loved the scene where Mr. Psycho cuts the air hose of that poor old woman, mistakenly thinking she's Ballin. He sits on her bed and calmly watches her gasping for air, then starts taking pictures as she dies. That's hardcore! Very, very creepy. And who does a better creep than Michael Ironside?

Then, before I knew it, something went horribly wrong. It's as if the filmmakers simply ran out of ideas, so all these subplots entered the picture. See, that's the problem with these movies wherein there's one specific victim the killer is after: you know the victim isn't going to die before the movie's end, so there's never any real danger or tension.

You know, come to think of it, I wish there were more short horror films. Maybe that should be the new wave: half hour horror. Think of how many movies would kick ass if they weren't stretched out to 90-odd minutes! If the original When a Stranger Calls had been kept to a slim and sexy half hour, it would be the perfect horror film. Same goes with Visiting Hours, it seems. Keep it short and the world will be singing your praises and touching themselves because of your awesomeness. Added filler to hit the 90-minute mark just makes for BOREDOM. There are huge stretches where no one dies...movies become "thrillers" as opposed to "horror movies"...there's far too many subplots that no one cares about...I start thinking about other things, I fall asleep, or I wish I could fall asleep. I was shocked- shocked I tells ya- when Visiting Hours was over and I discovered that it was, in fact, less than five hours long. I thought for sure it was an Original Lifetime Televison Mini-Series Event.

All in all, I'd say this movie was more dull than it was bad. 'Tis a shame, too, because it started out pretty damn good. I'm afraid, ladies and germs, that what we have here is what is known as a Tiffany.

I did learn some things from Visiting Hours, though. Among them:

-I have now heard what can only be called The World's Most Fucking Irritating Baby Doll Cry

-Babysitters are very forward. They will sleep at your house in the nude and hop into bed with you whilst wearing naught but a towel.

-Hospitals keep dogs locked up in their basements

-A high heel pummeling a hand will make me laugh

-The tiniest bell can make the loudest sounds

-If your movie has a great tagline ("So frightening you'll never recover"), do not change it to a lesser tagline for the re-release ("There is no known cure for murder"). First of all, even if that first tagline is blatantly untrue, it still rocks. Second, kids figure out that second tagline the first time they step on an ant. It's just silly.

-Do not trust a pale, vaguely sweaty man in a leather (or perhaps pleather) tank top

-No one on Earth should ever wear a leather (or perhaps pleather) tank top

There you go, folks. Another one bites the dust. As always, if you watched and wrote about Visiting Hours on your own site, be sure to link to your review in the comments section.

Meeting adjourned!

Here are quick links to other awesome people who reviewed Visiting Hours for the film club:

*Chadwick Saxelid
*Craig Moorhead
*Fatally*Yours
*House of Irony
*he who is...Josh
*Mermaid Heather

Some other reviews of Visiting Hours:
*Moriarty of Ain't It Cool News
*Retro Slashers!

17 comments:

Chadwick H. Saxelid said...

Here's your link -

http://chadwickhsaxelid.typepad.com/chadwick_h_saxelids_cluel/2006/05/visiting_hours_.html

I just know that somewhere in that movie's jumble of moderately effective scenes, there is a corker of a pyschologcial thriller to be had. But Visiting Hours sure ain't it.

When Colt Hawker was decked out in his p/leather duds and tight jeans, I kept wondering if Michael Ironside had thought he had been cast in a roadshow version of either Cruising or Grease. And what was it about the vaguely sweaty guy that had the middle aged matronly types literally throwing themselves at him? Huh?

The flick didn't have nearly enough Shatner, either. That hambone didn't have a bone to chew on, save for that bit where he's gnoshing on that cup of ice cream.

Stacie Ponder said...

I was thinking the same thing. Yeah, the girl from the diner was kinda skanky, but why would she go home with that creepy greaseball? Pfft- women.

Craig Moorhead said...

I just think they explored Ironside too much. Less flashbacks, more tension.

And probably less minutes would've been better, too, as you suggested.

http://craigmoorhead.blogspot.com/2006/05/fgfc-visiting-hours-also-stolen-car.html

fatally*yours said...

Boring, boring, boring...

What we had here was a neutered, cardboard-cutout Shatner, a killer we saw too much of and a horror movie dumbed down to a very boring thriller that doesn't even thrill.

Visiting Hours was only effective in putting me to sleep.

http://www.fatally-yours.com/2006/04/29/visiting-hours/

Stacie Ponder said...

Craig: the flashbacks were just silly. It ruined any chance this movie had of rising above the "thriller" category. When the killer is naked and decked out in glittering jewelry, that's horrifying! When he's having flashbacks to childhood abuse and maybe molestation, that's Lifetime! And I don't see how the flashbacks really made sense. If his father was really abusing him and his mother, why become such a woman hater? Or was he following in his father's footsteps....feh. Bleh. meh.

So...Fatally...I guess you found it boring? :D

Chadwick H. Saxelid said...

If his father was really abusing him and his mother, why become such a woman hater? Or was he following in his father's footsteps....feh. Bleh. meh.

Adoration of the abuser by the abused is not all that uncommon. It's something I learned from Quincy. Well, I also picked it up from Andy Milligan's biography. Evidently he was abused by his father, but he transfered all of his hatred over to his mother. Go figure.

The childhood trauma thing didn't add anything to the movie and, if it were gone, no one would have noticed. Also, what was it that made him write all those letters? Not explained.

Oh, one more thing that I notice...the basement of hospital, with its tunnels of colored pipes and go carts humming around, looked an awful lot like the University lab basement in GNAW: Food of the Gods Part 2. That it looked to be the same set got me to hoping a giant mutant rat thingie would show up, just liven things up a bit. You know?

Steven R said...

Me likey:
* Ironside's creepiness. He played a great psycho killer, especially when he got all nekkid and stabby while wearing Ballin's bling. That scene was instant cool.

* For some reason I got a real kick out of the dumbwaiter scene. Best invention EVER!!!

*I kind of liked the way the film made you "get to know" the victims before Ironside butchered them. Oh look, a single mom nurse is having trouble with her kids. Poor lady... OH MY GOD HE GUTTED HER! It kind of put a human face on the victims, making the violence more personal and less cookie-cutter horror.

Me no likey:
* Those flashbacks were hideous. I want a scary psycho killer, not an explanation for his actions. This movie tried too hard to do many things. Is it slasher flick, a psychological thriller, or a case study in Freudian psychology? Was it a statement about abuse against women? I dunno.

* There were times I felt like I was watching a made-for-TV movie. And not a good one. Way too much fluff.

*I pretty much hated everything after the first 15 minutes or so. By the climax, I could not have cared less if the heroine escaped the killer. Watching this started feeling like work. Even beer didn't help.

WTF?
*Shatner. His existence in the world in which this movie took place was pointless.

*I too, wanted kill many of the victims in this movie. Why must so many slasher victims be annoying jerks? I often wonder if this is the way many movie directors see the rest of the human race.

Bah! Enough! Bring on the next flick!

Steven said...

It's all for you, Stacie! It's all for you!

http://houseofirony.com/2006/05/01/visiting-hours/

Brother D said...

Man, I'm bummed I wasn't able to participate this time around . . . ! Sounds like I missed a winner . . .

(I'm definitely on board for next time, though . . . !)

Josh said...

Visiting Hours is the kind of movie that should top out a 75 minutes.

I'm still stunned how many ridiculous things they came up with to keep the three "victims" from coming together, not to mention Ironside's repeated lack of devotion to really killing ANY of them. Considering that he kills more strangers in the movie than he does protagonists, he's a pretty rotten stalker/killer.

Other things I said about Visiting Hours shortly after watching it:

http://minorannoyance.livejournal.com/2006/04/25/

Mistah Wade said...

Slasher? not so much. Psychological thriller? Possibly. Long, too long? Definitely!
They did all of this character build-up and I still didn't give a $#!† about any of them. I just wanted it to end. Kill Deborah. Kill Colt. Kill Shatner! Kill someone pertinent and end this movie! Kill that horrible doll with its banshee wail.
*Creepy poster art (best part of film) just pissed me off that they made it seem so much creepier.
*Attempts to fool the viewer (oh my god he is going to kill the cute blood nurse who is heading to grammy deady's room. nope it is fat less attractive but boy-crazed brunette nurse who went to lazy lung lady's room. didn't see that coming.) just didn't fool me.
*Potential lesbian lovin' (when babysitter hopes into bed with young single mom wearing nothin' but a towel) that didn't even pan out to some gratuitous (i think i spelled that wrong) nudity.
*these things just ended up aggrevating me more than anything.
And therefore I say... Next! I didn't even bother burning a copy.

Michelle said...

I think the part that really broke my ability to suspend disbelief was when the nurse, realizing her family is in danger and that the blonde chick knows who the murderer is, leaves without even trying to talk to the detectives upstairs (instead she babbles incoherently at a random cop). Sure, characters do stupid things to supposedly make the story more interesting and I'm sure no one is really thinking straight when their kids are in danger but this just seemed the epitome of really stupid.

Mostly I thought the movie was a little dull. The murderer seemed too creepy to be real. I was a little amused at how he got found out, though.

I think the flashbacks were supposed to show us what a great guy he thought his dad was and what a bitch his mom must have been to throw hot oil in his face just bacuse she didn't like his 'playfulness'. The playing in the dirt scene had some weird vibes to it but I think that may have been unintentional.

88ArterialSprays said...

Moriarty from Aint-it-cool news gave it a look today at his site too.

http://moriartylabs.typepad.com/moriartys_dvd_shelf/

Dusk said...

A reviewer for my site Retro Slashers, Thomas Ellison, gave the film a healthy and insightful review:

http://www.ultimate-horror.com/slashers/review_visitinghours.htm

Heather Santrous said...

Took me a while to get this one watched and reviewed but I finialy was able to do it. If anyone is interested you can pop over to my blog and read it.

http://mermaidheather.blogspot.com/

Oh Stacie, since the next movie will be the third choice, how about a 3-D movie? lol

Missy said...

Well, I was ten years old in 1982, and I saw this on the BIG SCREEN, and I can tell you that under those circumstances, this was scar-ee!

I just found your blog when searching for pages about The Descent & Dali, so I can see you know your stuff. I'm on board for the next Film Club movie!

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, Missy! Great to have you aboard.