*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- There’s No Recovery Room At All
Release Date- April, 1982
Running Time- 89-Minutes
Screenplay- Marc Behm
Director- Boaz Davidson
Starring- Barbi Benton, Chip Lucia, John Van Ness, John Warner Williams, Den Surles, Jimmy Stathis, Lanny Duncan
Back in the 80s the slasher film dominated the decade and while it remained popular throughout the 80s the more popular slasher films came out in the early part of the 80s, but even by 1982 things were getting a little stale at times. Hospital Massacre, which also goes under the titles of X-Ray and Be My Valentine or Else does nothing to change that notion and is one of the semi-forgotten slasher films, which I suppose has to do with how many of these films were produced in the 80s and for the fact it was long OOP until August 20th, 2013 when Shout Factory released it in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack under its alternate title X-Ray, so perhaps now Hospital Massacre can gain more of an audience. Another thing popular in slashers were using a certain day or event for the setting and the holiday of choice here is valentine’s day, but it actually has nothing to do with the plot and if not for a few decorations you wouldn’t even know it was set on valentines day. Setting a film on a holiday or special event was pretty much a gimmick in the 80s and like I said here in Hospital Massacre the valentines day setting really doesn’t impact the story and is pretty much a gimmick. The setting for the film is at a hospital, which was done the previous year with Halloween II. I don’t know when this film was written so I have no idea if Halloween II was an influence or not, but I kinda like the hospital setting in horror films. When I first saw Hospital Massacre it was an old VHS with decent quality considering its age and I didn’t hate the film, but I can’t say I really liked it either. But upon seeing the film again on Blu-ray I actually enjoyed it a lot more the 2nd time around. When discussing the best slasher films I don’t think Hospital Massacre will ever be mentioned, but its actually a fun film and it has that early 80s slasher charm going for it.
Slasher movies aren’t really known for their plots and Hospital Massacre does nothing to dispel that; the film starts off in 1961 and Susan (Elizabeth Hoy) receives a love letter from Harold (Bill Jacoby) and after she laughs at it he kills her friend David (Michael Romano) and then runs off laughing like a maniac; now 19-years later Susan (Benton) goes to the hospital for her test results from an exam, but somebody has switched her results with someone else and she’s forced to stay in the hospital while a maniac is on the loose killing off the staff of the hospital while setting his sights on Susan.
The screenplay was written by Marc Behm who wrote the story for Charade, which starred Audrey Hepburn and Behm also has a story credit on the Beatles movie Help. The script by Behm is light on plot and just as light on characters. All the male characters are simply there as a red herring as everyone of them is set up as a possible suspect and I’m not sure that was more on the writing or directing or both, but its quite easy to figure out the killer and once they appear onscreen you’ll know who it is. The opening scene feels like it was written in after the script was done as it really plays no part in the rest of the film. Slasher films such as Final Exam featured a random killer targeting random people, but here the killer is after Susan so I guess some link was needed but hey in the original Halloween Michael Myers randomly targeted Laurie and it wasn’t until the sequel a reason was given. Since the opening scene is never mentioned again one has to wonder whatever happened to Harold all those years since the opening. Was he locked away? Did he escape or was he released? While this may not be a big deal why bother with the opening scene if it plays no part in the rest of the film?
Hospital Massacre while a slasher flick doesn’t really follow the formula seen in most at the time. That’s not to say this movie has any originality because it doesn’t, we don’t have a camp setting, dorm or anywhere USA and the characters don’t partake in sex or drug use like most slasher films at the time. None of the characters are teens and Susan is divorced with a young daughter and this is something most slasher films at the time never had. Like I said Hospital Massacre while the typical slasher film of the 80s does slightly stray from the formula.
Hospital Massacre was directed by Boaz Davidson who also made the cult classic The Last American Virgin also released in 1982. Most of his films as director are B-movies, but as a producer he’s been a little prolific with big Hollywood films such as the Expendables, Expendables 2, Rambo and Righteous Kill to name a few and also has plenty of B-movies as a producer. Boaz Davidson crafts a fairly entertaining film that gets off to a fun start, but while the pace is never boring it does slow down a bit in the middle. There is some decent suspense and Davidson makes solid use of the hospital, but nothing really stands out from many other slasher films. As for the deaths scenes while well staged they aren’t very graphic and the most we get in general is some blood splatter, but Davidson still handles these scenes well, but a little more of the red stuff would have been welcomed. As for 80s slashers I’ve seen far better, but also seen far worse if anything Boaz Davidson crafts an entertaining slasher film that’s a fun watch.
There a few problems I have and some while not a big deal, but others I felt sort of hindered the film a bit. The hospital seems more like a psyche ward as all the patients are quite weird and come across as a bit insane. We have the typical dumb characters as members of the staff go missing, but yet nobody seems to notice or really care and even after a couple of deaths Susan just runs around the hospital never really making a legit effort to leave. Susan was supposed to go into the hospital to just pick up her test results and tells her boyfriend she’ll be back in a few minutes, but he doesn’t come looking for her for a couple of hours though to his defense he did fall asleep and once he wakes up he goes looking for her, but still. One scene has Susan hiding behind a portable changing screen and even though her feet can be seen the killer is totally oblivious even after she drops a lighter on the floor a mere two feet from him he just walks past never once looking down. Scenes like that some may find funny, but I just find it idiotic and insulting. The killer wears a surgical mask and dressed in scrubs and he is fairly creepy looking, but the over the top breathing and funny movements when he kills someone really zaps any possible suspense, but not all his lost since it does make the scenes with the killer a lot more fun.
Most of the performances were about average and perhaps a little better than most slasher films, but Barbi Benton best known as a playboy playmate actually delivers a surprisingly decent performance; the only other role I’ve seen her in was on an episode of the TV series McCloud. Benton is actually likable and charismatic, which makes the movie a little bit better. Even though Barbi Benton gives a fairly good performance the highlight isn’t her acting, but her nude scene in a really sleazy, but highly enjoyable examination scene.
The score by Arlon Ober is one of the most bizarre I’ve ever heard in a slasher flick; at times it’s the typical score found in these movies, but many portions of the score sounds exactly like the Omen and it feels really, really out of place it really doesn’t fit at all and actually is kind of distracting. I don’t know what Ober was thinking when he composed this, but its easily one of the best and worst scores I’ve heard in a slasher film since it really in no way fits what’s happening on screen.
Like I said when I first saw Hospital Massacre I found it to be decent, but forgettable at the same time, but upon my 2nd viewing on Blu-ray I enjoyed it a lot more and while this wouldn’t make my top 10 80s slasher films it is a fun film with some decent suspense and like I said has that 80s slasher charm working in its favor and it’s become a film I really enjoy now.
Hospital Massacre was released on VHS and than was long OOP until Shout Factory under their Scream Factory label rescued the film from oblivion. Scream Factory released the film under the title X-Ray in a blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack along with Schizoid in a double feature release. The HD transfer for X-Ray was surprisingly decent. I had low expectations, but it turns out far better than expected. X-Ray is nowhere near the best HD transfer for an 80s slasher film, but with that said it turns out fairly well. Grain is present through most of the movie, but never really overpowering though the final act can get a little overly grainy in spots. There is a little print damage here and there, but for the most part while never great it pretty much always looks good. The audio was alright, but given the films age and budget its pretty much what one would expect, but does get the job done. I only briefly checked out the DVD and while inferior to the blu-ray it is a decent enough transfer that’s far better than the old VHS tape. If you don’t own a blu-ray player you still get a fairly good DVD transfer, but the HD transfer is the better of the two, but that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Extras are light with only an interview with Boaz Davidson plus the film retains its original artwork with a reversible cover with the Hospital Massacre title as well the alternate poster.