It’s usually cats that provide a movie’s jump scares, and Visiting Hours offers a bit of a twist, throwing in a parrot, (the subject of an excellent joke involving a bar, bread, and the bird’s beak — not in the movie).
A slow-burn Canadian* stalk ‘n’ slash, Visiting Hours is a 1982 video nasty that features a one-two punch of Canuxploitation, Michael Ironside and William Shatner, Mike as the creeper and Bill in a small role as a by-the-book TV producer (and Montreal provides the backdrop for the unnamed American city setting).
The killer, Colt Hawker, takes snapshots of his vics, one of whom is Kevorkian-ed in the intensive care unit of the local County General.
The title, visiting hours, comes from a daddy issues backstory (Colt’s father is a patient at the hospital) and the killer flashes back to his hard-drinking abusive pops, now senile, wheelchair-bound and in a gown.
After a local provocateur-journalist, Deborah (played by Lee Grant, Oscar nominee for Detective Story) escapes his clutches, his knife lunges bypassing her aorta wall by mere centimeters, Colt spends the film trying to kill the one witness to his sordid crimes. (In her book, I Said Yes to Everything: A Memoir, Lee Grant claims that Visiting Hours was a “B- minus movie…which I’d already turned down.” Hey, you gots to pay the bills. Film critic Leonard Maltin “hoped she was well paid for this junk”).
In the interim, the killer busies himself with picking up and then abusing a punk rock chick at the local diner (with his slicked-back hair and leather jacket, Ironside is quite a catch).
Visiting Hours has more in common with Don’t Answer the Phone! and Maniac than it does any of the expendable camp counselor/college co-ed movies that came out around the same time.
As far as healthcare horrors go, it’s better made, but not nearly as gloriously goofy as Hospital Massacre.
Still, there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye, and Visiting Hours shows remarkable restraint.
*** (out of 5)
*It appears Michael Ironside’s character is driving a Zamboni at one point. That’s extra “Canadian” points.