Deborah (Lee Grant, SHAMPOO) is a feisty TV interviewer, first seen recording an interview with a successful lawyer in a studio. She grills the lawyer unapologetically over his prosecution of a woman believed to have killed her abusive husband in an act of self-defense.
From a room upstairs in the studio, the sinister stressball-clenching Colt (Michael Ironside, SCANNERS; STARSHIP TROOPERS) watches the interrogation on a monitor.
After her boss Gary (the inimitable William Shatner, STAR TREK) refuses to air the interview due to Deborah's verbal assaults against the lawyer, she rejects his offer of a lift and storms home on foot. Upon arriving at her abode, Deborah is hardly surprised to find the place in a state of disarray - her lodger is notoriously untidy.
But upon further investigation of her dwellings, Deborah receives a nasty surprise as Colt pounces at her in her bedroom - he's naked, save for her jewellery. He slashes her twice with a blade and gives chase as she frantically tries to escape murder. Following a tense game of cat-and-mouse, Deborah is saved by a neighbour ... and taken to County General Hospital to recover.
Unfortunately, Colt doesn't give up easily. He makes for his appartment, it's walls covered in copies of letters he's sent previously to Deborah. After a quick change of clothes he wastes no time in posing as a florist and advancing towards the hospital with murder in mind.
After mistakenly killing an old dear who'd been moved into Deborah's room (and sitting on the bed to photograph the pensioner's sickening last moments), Colt offs a nurse and flees from his botched assassination attempt ... but has now become transfixed not only by Deborah, but pretty young nurse Sheila (Linda Purl, HAPPY DAYS), who saw his face as he left the scene of the carnage.
Well, that's the first 30 minutes of VISITING HOURS covered. The remaining 75 minutes continue with the same theme, offering little in the way of shocks - but plenty of increasingly preposterous scenes as Colt attempts to get to Deborah's police-protected hospital room via an array of unconvincing disguises.
Still, VISITING HOURS is fun and rarely drags. Okay, it's a little overlong but compared to a lot of the dreck that saturated the horror market in the slasher heyday of the early 80s, this stands up quite well as one of the more interesting additions to the cycle.
Of course, a name cast helps. As diabolical as Shatner can be, he is at least always watchable (even if it's simply to giggle at him). Grant and Purl handle the scream queen duties competently, with the former adding depth to a character that could have so easily been boring and unlikable.
Ironside, however, steals the show with his po-faced turn as a loner haunted by memories of his own abusive childhood (yeah, ANOTHER one of those!). He makes for a convincingly creepy psycho, yet keeps it plausible in scenes such as where he flirts with a young blonde across the tables of a cafe, and cares for his invalid father.
Brian Taggert's screenplay allows extra dimension to the central characters, making this a cut above your average 80s slasher fare. So much so, it doesn't really matter that Jean Claude Lord's direction is distinctly pedestrian TV-movie-type fare. By-the-numbers scare tactics from Lord, for sure, but at least he does by-the-numbers well.
Anchor Bay US have graced the film with a gorgeous anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. It looks simply stunning - sharp, bright, clear. Great work. The film is fully uncensored here too, so look out for the moment where Ironside runs a knife up and down the body of a trembling bimbo, then flips her over and bites her back - cut from the UK pre-cert videotape.
The English mono soundtrack is fine - problem-free and consistent.
Static menus are quite lazy, and give way to scene access to the main feature via 20 chapters.
Extras are scant. We get four US TV spots and one 30-second radio spot. That's it. Unless you take into account trailers for other attractions, which on this occasion include THE ANNIVERSARY, BAD DREAMS, QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY, THE ENTITY and GHOST IN THE MACHINE. No trailer for VISITING HOURS though ...
While it would have been nice to see contributions from the interesting cast, ABUS must be commended for releasing a pristine uncut transfer of one of the best stalk 'n' slash films of the early 80s. Find it cheap, and give it a go.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Anchor Bay USA|
|Region 1 NTSC|
|Extras : see main review|