Director – Jean-Claude Lord
Cast – Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl, William Shatner, Lenore Zann, Harvey Atkin, Helen Hughes, Michael J. Reynolds
Release Year – 1982
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Visiting Hours was one film I was really looking forward to viewing after reading its awesome plot and hearing of how underrated it was. After viewing this early 80s slasher film I can say that it is is not only a highly enjoyable watch, but in the end was a much better experience than I expected. I expected a fun watch, but instead I was given much more than that thanks to the film’s excellent portrayal of its psychopathic killer, making this one of the better slasher films I have ever seen and a truly underrated film as well.
Deborah Ballin is a middle-aged strong-willed TV journalist who delivers a controversial message after hosting and berating the lawyer for an abusive husband killed who was killed by his wife, a wife know on trial for murder instead of self-defense. Deborah’s hardline on-air campaign for women’s rights sets off Colt Hawker(Michael Ironside; Scanners, Starship Troopers, Total Recall, The Machinist, “Masters of Horror”: The V-Word), the studio’s misogynistic closet-psychopath janitor who’s views on women come from his deeply troubled upbringing. Hell-bent on getting vengeance against Deborah for what she said, he breaks into her home later that night and beats her severely, leaving her for dead when a concerned neighbor interrupted his quest for redemption. When he learns that Deborah in fact survived the attack and is recovering at the local hospital, Colt makes his way there to finish the bloody mess that he started.
Boy was this film a treat to watch. From the get-go I was captivated by the film’s storyline with the opening sequence consisting of Deborah laying into the defense attorney despite her studio advising her to stay neutral. Deborah is good at what she does, antagonizing and getting people angry(ala the liberal woman version of Bill O’Reily) which in my opinion made her unlikable, and had me rooting for Colt to do his thing, something I love in horror films. The following sequence follows Deborah as she arrives home to an odd-feeling home in which she cannot find her housekeeper, and the noise-inducing faucets/shower have been running for quite some time. This scene is drawn out tremendously well, and soon enough Colt makes his appearance and the tension gets much higher, and is again successfully drawn out as long as possible, all without detrimenting the film. I loved the fact that this film came with two big elements to its plot, one involving Colt’s initial assault on Deborah, and the other being his stalk and lurk of her in the hospital, leading to a great climax who’s only downfall in my opinion was that it was a little too happy for me. The character of Colt Hawker is awesome and superbly written, and he reminded me much of Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Deborah is supposed to be the star of the story, but the story is not about her, she is a mere puppet written for Colt to toy with, and he does a damn good job of doing just that. The film does suffer some slower parts, and most involve delving into the psyche of Colt, so I did not mind these slower sections given I was given something for it. We are given several supporting characters as well, one of them being a seldom-used William Shatner as Deborah’s supervisor, and another being a prominently used nurse who is caring for Deborah. Both characters added to the film, but my only caveat is that Shatner’s character was not used to full potential.
Director Jean-Claude Lord did a fantastic job executing this film, and despite his limited film resume it is obvious that the guy has talent. His atmosphere is fantastic, consisting of perfect sets with appropriate lighting to provide good shocks and plenty of places for Colt to lurk. His execution of Colt is fantastic, and Michael Ironside was superb as the guiltless homicidal killer, much like his character in David Cronenberg’s Scanners. The rest of the acting performances were positive, but this film was about Colt, and Ironside got it done. We get some fantastic kills thrown in as well, and they consisted of positive gore that was not over-the-top but was of full-frontal nature that complimented with Colt’s mannerisms were truly shocking and well executed. The film runs a full 105 minutes, but along with the great subject matter Jean-Claude Lord’s direction aided in the pacing and keeping things interesting, a tell-tale sign of a good director.
Overall, Visiting Hours is an awesome slasher film that gives us much more than cool kills and good scares thanks to a great performances from Michael Ironside as the film’s extremely well-written killer. Great direction compliments the awesome storyline, and despite the end result this film is one of the genre’s most underrated.