Director: Boaz Davidson
Year of release: 1982
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 89 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Blu Ray only though there is a German DVD I think.
Also known as: Hospital Massacre, Ward 13 and Be my Valentine or else.
Taglines: "You have nothing to fear, until they operate", There is no recovery at hospital massacre" and "The check up that became a nightmare".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: While playing with her brother on Valentines Day young Susan is disturbed by a knock at the door. Upon answering she finds a Valentines Day card on the step. Taking it back into the house she opens it with her brother and they laugh when they find out it is signed as having been sent by someone they know called Harold. Such is their disdain that they rip the card up which upsets the sender who unbeknownst to the pair is watching them through the window. While Susan is in the kitchen shortly after she hears a commotion and returning to the living room finds her brother dead and impaled upon a coat stand, the work of a rejected Harold.
Some twenty years later on Valentine's Day once again a now adult Susan visits a hospital to pick up some routine test results she needs for a new job. At the same hospital though is the spurned Harold who is still obsessed with Susan, the object of his desire all those years ago. Clad in a surgical mask all the while when doing anything sinister that hides his identity Harold arranges for a mix up in the test results that leads to Susan having to remain at the hospital for an extended period for observation. Killing anyone that gets in his way or who is dealing with the Susan case a maniacal Harold sets about getting close to Susan so he can win her heart, quite literally.
Good points: X-Ray has a great sense of fun about it and despite being silly and unrealistic at times it constantly delivers on the entertainment front. It is humorous but kind of in a charming unintended way instead of being deliberately styled as a comedy in the way say some of the Chucky films are. It has a hint of that "so bad it's good quality" about it but I don't want to sell it short in saying that as it is pure good fun, something to raise the spirits which I enjoyed a lot.
The costume of the killer is up to a decent standard and and it not only conceals the identity of which male character in the hospital is actually Harold but obviously ties in with the hospital itself being a surgical mask, scrubs and doctor's coat. Regarding the mystery of the killer's identity it isn't hard to guess but they at least give us a few possibilities such as the sleazy Doctor Saxton, Susan's ex husband and a drunk patient who is forever poking around the corridors.
The building of the hospital where the majority of the film is set is creepy and unsettling in particular the 9th floor which is supposedly closed for fumigating and is always dark and kind of misty, presumably the remains of chemicals used by the fumigators. The place in general though seems to be a maze of creepy corridors which adds up to a disconcerting atmosphere. In the extras it says that the hospital used for filming was in real life abandoned and they only shot at night which adds to the vibe. The trio of old ladies that share a room with Susan are also on the scary side and add to the menace of the place with their weird behaviour.
I felt that there was a strong end to the film from the point where Harold's identity is revealed onwards. We get a nice chase sequence in which Susan does quite a lot of damage to Harold before the chase leads up to the hospital roof. The whole sequence was easily one of my favourite parts of the film.
Things are solid enough on the blood and gore front without much of a budget to finance things. Although much of the time we just see blood splashes and drops there is always plenty of it and there are several standout moments such as a severed body part and someone getting their face submerged in a sink of acid. I also really liked the buildup to the boyfriends death involving the silhouette of the person in the wheelchair behind the curtain and Harold whispering.
Bad Points: Other than Susan herself and one or two others that stick around for a while like Doctor Saxton and Susan's boyfriend there aren't many properly developed characters. Most of those that we see and indeed those that die are various members of staff at the hospital though we don't see much of them before their death scenes so it is difficult to become invested in their chances of survival.
The opening scene taking place in1960 though enjoyable could have done with being a bit longer as I didn't think it did a very good job of establishing Harold. I know they were trying to imply he was an undesirable who the girls wouldn't be seen dead with but they didn't explain why and he wasn't really ugly so it can't have been purely for physical reasons. Plus it wasn't elaborated on later in regards to if Harold was found out or if he got in any trouble for the murder of the brother so the writing felt a bit weak here.
It all looks a bit dated now with the nurses uniforms and the look of the hospital to Susan often smoking inside the building while another patient constantly wanders around with a bottle of alcohol without being challenged.
Though it is all part of the charm the film is very silly at times like the size of the knife Susan uses to cut a cake in 1960 (it looks like a small sword) to the flimsy backlit screen she is forced to change behind as an adult at the hospital. After changing into a gown she doesn't even keep it on as Saxton strips her for his rather dubious examination. All very silly but it does kind of raise a smile at the same time. There are a few other bits though that just don't make much sense like Susan hiding behind a screen from the killer at one point with her feet clearly visible beneath. She drops a lighter by her feet which attracts Harold's attention but somehow he doesn't look down so fails to see either her feet or the lighter. Also after being strapped to her bed it is said that if Susan gets any worse they may have to operate but she doesn't do anything further they would classify as getting worse but shortly after one of the nurses seems to be prepping for the surgery anyway. Lastly there is a scene where Harold is wheeling a trolley with what looks like body parts on it but it isn't clear who they belong to. Possibly the three fumigators who disappear after their brief scene?
Verdict: This is something of a guilty pleasure film I think. Silly and over the top at times and certainly more than a bit cheesy but always enjoyable I found and infectious good fun. I was expecting it to be average at best based on other bits and pieces I'd read about prior to watching but I ended up enjoying it a lot.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Susan's brother: Killed off camera and found impaled on a coat/hat stand. 2) Doctor Jacobs: Stabbed and stuffed in a locker after being lured to the 9th floor. 3) Janitor: Face pushed into a sink full of acid. 4) Suzy: Stabbed while checking Susan's blood sample. 5) Nancy: Strangled with a stethoscope after finding a dead Suzy. 6) Jack (Boyfriend): Attacked with a bone saw, must have been decapitated as his head later turned up in a box. 7)Doctor Saxton: Hit from behind in the back of the head with a small axe. 8) Nurse Dora: Wrestled to the ground with a sheet in the corridor and then injected with something from a syringe, possibly just stabbed with the syringe. 9) Doctor Beam: Impaled through the back of the neck with a saw as he looked at X rays. 10) Harold: Weakened by stabbing, beaten with lead pipe and burnt facially before tumbling off the hospital roof to his death.