Sunday, March 23, 2014

Visiting Hours, Classic Slasher Film from Canada

1982's "Visiting Hours" was doomed by the critics.  In the early 1980s, slasher films were drawing the ire of people and groups alarmed about the increasing violence against women in films and society.  A widely held belief was that the demeaning portrayal of women (as nymphomaniac teenagers or as weak defenseless beings needing a man to save them) in these films could cause unbalanced people to be more likely to commit rape, sexual assault, or murder against them.  Though "Visiting Hours" is indeed a slasher film, it's portrayal of women is anything but disrespectful or negative.  Lee Grant (Airport '77) portrays Deborah Ballin, a strong willed TV host crusading against people who commit violence against women and the attorneys who defend them.  Linda Purl (Matlock) portrays Nurse Sheila Munroe, a caring nurse who is raising two young children and volunteers at a clinic for battered women on her days off.  In 2014, any critic would have to admit that "Visiting Hours" is pro-women.
The plot:  After her TV show advocating on behalf of a battered woman who defended herself against a raging boyfriend, she draws the attention of an evil viewer.  Colt, played brilliantly by Michael Ironside (Scanners), is a misogynist to the 10th degree!  He murders any woman in his life who shows strength, and photographs them while they breathe their last breaths.  Colt breaks into Ballin's house, kills her housekeeper, then slashes Ballin when she arrives home.  By some miracle, she survives and is rushed to the hospital, seriously hurt and in need of multiple surgeries.  An empathetic Nurse Munroe takes it upon herself to watch over Ballin.  Munroe, a former battered wife, forges a friendship with Ballin, which will put her in great danger. Nurse Munroe is beautiful, sweet, smart, hard working, and has the heart of an angel.
Colt, determined to kill Ballin, masquerades as a florist and heads to the hospital.  In an attempt to get to at Ballin, Colt murders a nurse and another patient, but is chased away by Munroe.  Sensing Munroe is Ballin's ally, Colt now is determined to cut her to pieces as well.  In flashbacks we see glimpses of Colt's childhood which formed him into this deranged slasher.  Again and again he returns to the hospital and the body counts increase with doctors, cops, nurses, and patients.  All this sets up a horrifying final 15 minutes where Colt attacks Nurse Munroe in her home, and Ballin is left unprotected for a vicious final scene.
 This movie has a gritty reality to it.  When Ballin screams, its real, not some canned sound effect.  Nurse Munroe's home looks like the home of an over burdened single mom, not like the flats of soap opera women.  The hospital corridors are over crowded with patients, annoying visitors, IV stands, and beeping machines.  Colt is truly evil and menacing and when he invades Nurse Munroe's home, we are yelling "No!"
Oh yes, one more thing, William Shatner is terrific as Ballin's producer.  See "Visiting Hours" and be prepared to do your viewing from the edge of your seats.

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