Director: Jean Claude Lord
Year of release: 1982
Country of origin: Canada
Running time: 101-105 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "So frightning, you'll never recover" and "There is no known cure...for MURDER"
Estimated budget: $500,000 (Canadian)
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Journalist Deborah inadvertently raises the ire of loose cannon Colt Hawker when she publicly defends a woman in trouble for attacking her abusive husband. With Deborah’s speech recorded for a television show, Hawker overhears the whole thing while working a menial job at the broadcast studio. Stirring up bitter memories in Hawker’s twisted mind, Deborah quickly becomes his obsession which culminates in him trying to kill her after breaking into her home. Though ultimately unsuccessful in finishing the job, Hawker’s actions leave Deborah badly injured at the local hospital.
Perturbed at not accomplishing his mission, the madman tracks his quarry to her new location at the medical facility where he targets not only Deborah herself but also the pretty nurse taking care of her.
Good points: *Coming along as this did in the early eighties among a slew of other genre films it must have been difficult to distinguish ones self from the pack. Visiting Hours to its credit does manage to achieve this to some extent in that it utilises a much older than usual cast with barely a teenager or young twenty something in sight. Instead we have veteran Lee Grant in the final girl role as journalist Deborah who might well be the oldest final girl ever. The film stands out a little simply because of this and even after the introduction of another central player in the form of the nurse Shelia it still retains a unique feel. While attractive, Shelia is herself a bit older than the typical girl in peril types as she has a young family of her own.
Once Shelia is in play and Hawker overhears her badmouthing him on the telephone he begins to split his time between the two. He pretty much targets them both in equal measure which again is a novel approach and though for me the final product isn’t hugely entertaining it’s at least something very different in this area. Much later it was replicated to much better effect in Cold Prey Resurrection.
Regarding Deborah there’s also some smart writing on display with an attempt made to give her a progressive character arc. She’s portrayed as a bit of a pacifist early on who has perhaps spoken out against violence in the past. By the end however she has to overcome this mindset and become what she dislikes in order to try and survive.
*The scene near the beginning where Hawker conceals himself inside Deborah’s home is tense and fairly creepy. It’s easily the scariest part of the film particularly because of the disconcerting way in which Hawker has styled and attired himself when he attacks. In a very minor spoiler there’s also a false/jump scare type moment involving a parrot thrown in just beforehand which is a nice touch.
Once things reach the hospital there’s also one or two chase sequences which themselves are relatively well done with a touch of excitement about them. Nothing as good as what occurred in the beginning but certainly better than nothing.
*I wasn’t a fan of Colt Hawker on the whole as a villain but one thing I did appreciate relating to his character is that he was given a bit of backstory with flashbacks throwing light on his childhood.
For a maniac without a mask he looked reasonable as well coming across as a bit of an unhinged oddball in the way he looks and acts. He reminded me a bit of a wrestler from way back called Waylon Mercy.
Hawker’s compulsion to photograph his victims before they die was also pretty neat, maybe a nod to Peeping Tom and I liked how he arranged the pictures in the closet.
Bad Points: *On the flip side to the Hawker character, the thing I didn’t like is that he looses a lot of menace due to how he so often fails to deliver and complete the job. Ultimately he’s just very inept and often makes a hash of what he’s trying to do, failing to finish off a target properly and then having to kill somebody else out of frustration. His inability to finish much of what he starts makes him come across as a bumbling clown and not someone to be feared.
Spoiler: Incidentally it didn’t make sense for him to let the Lisa character go with just minor injuries as it was because of this that the police began to cotton on to what he was doing. If he did intend to kill her but she simply escaped then the actual escape should have been shown on screen.
*Another key area where Visiting Hours largely disappoints is with the murders which aren’t impressive at all. They’re extremely tame to the point of being a complete joke when compared to many of the films contemporaries. Apart from one gruesome moment involving an arm towards the end it’s largely devoid of gore, blood seeping through clothes or bandages being about the extent of it. It’s understated in the manner of Halloween but though it feels like the filmmakers were going for a slightly more classy offering it lacks the excitement and body count of many of its piers so can become a drag to sit through. This threadbare, super dull and tame approach to the violence quickly sucks much of the fun out of the experience. In some cases it’s not even clear if characters attacked actually die.
It’s crying out for a few extra kills as well, Hawker’s nosey landlady would have made an ideal victim for example but it’s not to be and in the end for me it struggles to get off the ground as a result.
*It’s not just the dull approach surrounding the murders which contribute to the film feeling a bit boring but also the running time which seems to roll on for longer than it should. Clocking in at just over one hundred minutes it doesn’t sound too overlong on paper but due to the slow pace and listless action it feels much longer. One or two more exciting bits aside the film plods along for far too long with nothing of any great interest actually happening. Had it have been cut down to closer to eighty minutes it may have proved to be more watchable. In its current state it didn’t command my attention and was too slow and boring for its own good.
Verdict: An intriguing idea in theory with the older than usual cast and duel final girls set up together with the promising setting of a busy hospital. In fairness there is a tense seen near the beginning but after that it becomes way too meandering and tedious with some rubbish deaths only adding to the disappointment. There are far worse films out there for sure but “dull and boring” are the main words which spring to mind for me when thinking of Visiting Hours. For whatever reason it does seem to be a film with more than its fair share of admirers but I’m afraid that I’m not really one of them.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
Note: The body count was a bit hard and confusing to compile as it wasn’t clear if some of the people attacked actually died.
1)Francine: Killed off camera, only lower legs are seen.
2)Old lady: Oxygen support tube cut resulting in her suffocating.
3)Nurse: Stabbed in back/torso with switchblade knife.
4)Male patient: Stabbed in the chest with switchblade after rubber ball is stuffed into his mouth.
5)Policeman guard: Seen to be grabbed and manhandled around the head area. Neck possibly broken or strangled though it isn’t completely clear if he dies.
6)Colt Hawker: Stabbed in the chest by Deborah.
Review added on the 3rd of October 2020.