Horror Movie Review: X-Ray (1981)

As dumb as it gets, X-Ray (also known as Hospital Massacre, Be My Valentine, Or Else, and Ward 13) is a slasher film from director Boaz Davidson, with a screenplay by Marc Behm. This ‘Valentine’s Day’ related horror stars Barbi Benton, Charles Lucia, and Jon Van Ness.

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Valentine’s Day in inverted commas because it’s tenuous as best, and doesn’t make much difference to the plot, seeing as the majority of the film takes place in a hospital. Easily the worst run hospital ever, with the doctors, nurses, and patients who are equally pervy beyond belief and acting like police officers when it comes to detaining someone. The characters, the location, and how everyone acts, is a major reason as to why this film is so dumb.

However, the story certainly doesn’t help matters either. Beginning in the past, as a young girl named Susan rejects a Valentine’s gift from a boy named Harold. The boy is so mad, he somehow kills her friend/brother (the film doesn’t make this clear) and hangs his body on a coat rack. Don’t ask, it really is this absurd.

Now an adult, Susan (Benton) has a young daughter, an ex-partner, and a new boyfriend, named Jack (Van Ness). All of whom are irrelevant to the story, with the latter being nothing more than more fodder for a killer.

A killer who is stalking the halls of a hospital that Susan has visited to get some test results. There, the killer messes with her results, concerning the staff, resulting in them insisting that Susan stay in for observation. All while refusing to explain a single thing to her, behaving extremely inappropriately, and generally trying to make the viewer think one of them could be the killer. Even though it’s painfully obvious who that is, from the moment they are introduced.

So, what does the killer do while he waits for his chance to reveal himself to Susan? He kills off random nurses and doctors, hiding out on a floor that is being fumigated. A floor that anyone can visit and even has some elderly patients wandering around, lost. Do you see now how dumb this film is? Oh, it is also Valentine’s Day, although you’d never know it, aside from some decorations in the hospital and later, Susan getting a gift of a severed head in a box.

Yet, that is just the tip of the iceberg of stupidity this film showcases. Where everyone has to act like they’ve been lobotomised just so the story beats could make some sense. Susan insists that she isn’t staying in the hospital, but immediately stays the moment she is told she must. She demands to know what is wrong with her test results, only to be told it’s nothing to worry about. She is well and truly groped by one doctor during a routine examination, and doesn’t make a single complaint. It’s hilarious that she wouldn’t question the validity of having to take all her clothes off to have her blood pressure taken.

Mind you, Barbi Benton was a playboy model, so she was certainly never going to complain about being topless in certain scenes. Regardless, that is no excuse for a character this dumb.

All of this could be excused, if X-Ray was at least entertaining, but it’s not. It’s very slow, very repetitive, and very trope heavy. Even in 1981, a lot of these slasher cliches were tried, and X-Ray hits a lot of them.

Where the film does have moments that please are with the deaths. There are plenty, they are graphic ones, and there is variety in how the random victims are taken out. Sure, no-one will care because all of these characters are pointless, but at least they get to go out in style… most of the time.

Offering nothing new to the slasher genre, there’s no real reason to watch X-Ray, let alone see it as a rare entry in the Valentine’s Day sub-category of horror. It exists, and that’s about all that needs to be said.




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  • Carl Fisher

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X-Ray (1981)
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