A video nasty without much in the way of nasty (at least what you might expect), Visiting Hours is a 1982 slasher horror from director Jean-Claude Lord. From a screenplay by Brian Taggert, the film stars Lee Grant, Linda Purl and Michael Ironside.
Lee Grant plays Deborah Ballin, a popular journalist who is campaigning on behalf of a female domestic abuse survivor. This woman killed her abusive husband and is now up on a murder charge which Deborah and many others, feel is wrong. Though there are some that see her feminist ways as dangerous and wish to silence her.
One such person is Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside). A misogynistic psychopath, he wants to silence Deborah permanently so breaks into her home and attacks her. She manages to survive the attack and ends up in hospital. It’s here she meets the young nurse, Sheila Munroe (Linda Purl) and they strike up a friendship.
Colt may have failed in his attempt at killing Deborah but he plans to try again and again until he has shut her up. However, when he overhears Sheila insulting him, she also becomes a target for the unstable killer.
The feminist/misogynistic angle for this slasher is a nice change of pace, especially in the 80s when most females in horror were there to bare some skin. Of the two, it’s easier to get behind Purl’s Sheila then it is Grant’s Deborah but both do good in their respective roles.
It’s not about rallying around to kick the villain’s ass but rather surviving until the situation becomes so intense that a fight back is the only way to get out of it. That angle ties directly into the case that Deborah is fighting and brings the film full circle by the end.
It helps that the villain of the movie is such a horrible git that him getting his comeuppance is desired. Michael Ironside does a fantastic job, saying nearly nothing throughout the movie, his intense demeanour and sleazy, murderous actions are enough. Even though the movie tries to humanise him with a flashback to his own childhood, he is still wholly unlikable.
All of this is great stuff but the flaws are just as evident which makes the overall experience less enjoyable. One such issue is the pacing. This is a slasher so the usual cat & mouse games between killer and would-be victim are present. Visiting Hours hits all the tropes but does it far too many times to the point when it just feels repetitive. By the end, another very long chase and hide sequence, it’s beginning to bore.
Another issue surrounds characters and the many, many dumb decisions that are made. The sort of stuff that has you groaning loudly, throwing hands in the air and remarking how these exact tropes have become mock-worthy in modern time.
Tropes like running up the stairs instead of out the front door. Hearing a noise and calling out even though you’re supposed to be alone. There’s a ton of them here and that’s before we even get to how awful the staff and police at the hospital are.
There’s a killer on the loose who has it in for the woman staying inside? Let’s just let anyone up to her because he’s delivering flowers. A patient has pushed their help button in their room? No rush, just stroll because they’re sure to be fine. It’s infuriating.
All of this does detract from the overall quality but truth be told, Visiting Hours is just an average slasher movie anyway. One that really doesn’t deserve the notoriety of being on the Nasty list. It has got some violence, some sexualised violence but compared to so many other films at this time, it’s remarkably tame.
The Final Score - 6/10