‘Christ, you really blast them all, don’t you?
Blacks, Jews, Mexicans. You want the whole
goddamn world to yourself?’
Say what you like about the Video Nasties, but they have it all – sex, horror and William Shatner. It’s true, Visiting Hours features The Shat in a small role as the boyfriend of tv anchor Lee Grant, a crusader for women’s rights. Her attempt to get a retrial for a battered wife draws her unwanted attention from the creepy Michael Ironside, a racist, misogynist piece of shit.
The action starts pretty quickly, which is unfortunately the high point of the movie. Grant returns home and finds herself menaced by Ironside. Naked and covered in more gold jewellery than Mr. T, his first appearance is a real shocker, leading to a thrilling chase throughout her house. The set piece in the dumbwaiter has the sort of nightmarish intensity most slasher movies would kill for (ahhh, sorry folks), so it’s a shame that nothing else in the film even comes close to it.
Ironside fully commits to the performance, oozing hate with such unbridled fury it’s a wonder so many women seem to fancy him, particularly when he’s decked out in that horrendous leather vest.
But fancy him they do, leading to the nastiest scene in the movie where he makes a girl strip to her undies then runs a knife up and down her body. Of course, this being a Canadian film and not an Italian one, the filmmakers cut away just as things are about to get really unpleasant.
Despite the presence of Hollywood stars like Shatner and Grant, the real star of the movie is the hugely likeable Linda Purl as Grant’s nurse. With Grant stuck in hospital for the bulk of the film, it’s up to Purl to carry the movie. I couldn’t figure out if she was in a lesbian relationship or not – she’s getting ready for bed and another woman flops down next to her wearing only a towel, and later she’s lying in bed nude when Purl comes home, but I think she’s meant to just be the babysitter.
Shame, as a lesbian couple with kids would not only have been quite a progressive move for a 1982 slasher movie, but it would have added a bit more weight to the feminist themes that the movie constantly fumbles.
Unlike more fun slashers (Halloween II, Hospital Massacre), Visiting Hours doesn’t use its setting particularly well, and by the third time that Ironside manages to sneak in past all the security (wearing more disguises than Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible) it all starts to get a bit ridiculous, culminating in a moment where Grant recognises her stalker by the sound of the bell on his gold necklace. Hey dumbass, maybe a good idea not to basically wear an alarm while you’re out stalking people.
Just a thought.