Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Census Bloodbath: Keep The Doctor Away

Year: 1982
Director: Boaz Davidson
Cast: Barbi Benton, Chip Lucia, Jon Van Ness 
Run Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

For the final pre-Halloween post in our reinvigorated push into Census Bloodbath, I figured I'd do a holiday-themed one to keep us in the festive spirit. Sure Hospital Massacre AKA X-Ray is themed around Valentine's Day, but let's not pretend like the pickings weren't already slim by this point in the decade. It's an 80's slasher movie so we're watching it. If you've read my blog for even one minute, you know this is all the motivation I need.

Also who doesn't love a themed killer? OK, maybe people who haven't devoted their lives to watching hundreds of these movies. Perspective really sucks, doesn't it?

Hospital Massacre hits the ground fucking rolling with a prologue set in 1961. When young boy Harold (Billy Jayne, one of the trio of child killers in the same year's Bloody Birthday) delivers a Valentine to his crush Susan (Elizabeth Hoy, another member of the trio - what a reunion!), she proceeds to make fun of him with her friend Dave (Michael Romano). When she leaves to go cut the Valentine's cake (?) with a knife so huge it's clearly meant to somehow be a red herring, Harold dispatches Dave by jamming one of the spikes of a coat rack through his skull and hanging him from it. Holy shit!

Cut to 19 years later, which I guess means the film is a period piece set in 1980. Susan (now played by Playboy bunny Barbi Benton) has a brief moment of useless exposition with her daughter and vile ex-husband before being dropped off at the hospital by her boyfriend Jack (Jon Van Ness, not the one from Queer Eye, but aren't Tourist Trap and The Hitcher the collective Queer Eye of horror films?). She is there to pop in and get some quick test results, but unfortunately for her, her doctor (Gay Austin) has just been murdered by a man in medical scrubs who is lurking in the 9th floor, which has been cleared for fumigation.

This selfsame killer has taken it upon himself to toy with her medical records, making it seem like she has a life-threatening illness and making the hospital staff go full Cuckoo's Nest on her, forcing her to remain bedridden despite her protestations that she feels completely fine, never even checked in, and - by the way - it seems like there might be a psycho killer wandering the halls murdering people.

Gaslighting has never been more sexy.

I suppose the first thing I should mention is that this is a production of Cannon, the company behind infinite delightful B-pictures of the 80's, whose other efforts in the slasher genre included New Year's Evil and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. They were never, shall we say, hinged. But Hospital Massacre makes no apparent attempt to resemble the structure or presentation of an actual motion picture. It exists in a weird space between dimensions, constantly presenting character motivations, dialogue, and even physical locations that make not a single lick of sense.

This does work toward making the film terrifically uncanny, at least. Consider the way characters wander into the ninth floor, not questioning the insecticide filling the corridors or bothering to cover their mouths except when they cough as their lungs are filled with poison. Or when Susan hides behind a screen, even though her legs are clearly visible poking out from the bottom. Or the trio of bedridden old ladies in Susan's room who judge her in thick cockney accents ("She must be old and rotten on the inside, her blood is malignant slime, etc., etc.") but can periodically be spotted wandering throughout the moonlit halls cackling like Shakespearean witches.

OR how every character who needs to perform any task uses a comically large knife to do so, even though this movie isn't really a whodunit. We're pretty clear that the killer is a grown up Harold, and there's literally a character named Harry wandering around (we're supposed to be shocked when he reveals that he's been the killer the whole time, saying "actually, my name is HAROLD," in a scene very reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express when Michelle Pfeiffer removes her blonde wig to reveal that she has brown hair in the exact same length and style).

This movie is just rather strange, from top to bottom. While the staff all seem like they've just stepped off the set of XXX Candy Stripers Gone Wild, their patients wouldn't be out of place in Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Every patient who isn't Barbi Benton is a leering old man, a gibbering maniac, or in one case a drunken bum who doesn't seem to even have a room. He just wanders around with his whiskey bottle and nobody gives him a second look. 

I'm beginning to wonder if I actually just dreamed this movie.

This movie also clearly understands exactly nothing about how hospitals works. I'm really not asking a movie called Hospital Massacre to be 100% medical accurate, but you think somebody might have noticed that, say, nurses don't keep blood samples in old wooden cabinets, or that heartbeats don't come in sets of three. This might explain Susan's terrifyingly porny physical exam, which begins with the doctor peeling down her hospital robe to reveal her breasts, before checking her blood pressure. Because you need to see the breasts to do that.

So this is the atmosphere which surrounds our tale of a mad slasher. The synoptically goofy elements surrounding the killer serve him well, because he doesn't really improve beyond his awesome, pedal to the metal opening kill. He does have a pretty slick outfit, serving sheer creepiness as his breath puffs out the surgical mask and his shiny plastic gloves completely remove any semblance of humanity from his hands.

But though his kills certainly shed blood freely in a manner only an early 80's slasher was able to - or even allowed to - accomplish, they're just not that well executed. A man has a spike driven through his throat that is so clearly just glued to the side of his neck it's embarrassing. And there are too many offscreen stabbings with blood splashing the killer for my taste. It's a cop-out in a movie that literally has one reason for existing, because the plot sure isn't delivering anything satisfying.

I want to say I had a good time with this film, because it's so bizarre it's almost hypnotic. But it's time to face facts that it's just not very good. It's fun, but confusion only carries you so far as a marker of a film's quality, you know? I wouldn't warn people away from it, but you really need to be aware of what you're getting yourself into beforehand.

Killer: Harold (Chip Lucia)
Final Girl: Susan Jeremy (Barbi Benton)
Best Kill: They kill a child with a coatrack, that's hardcore man.
Sign of the Times: Susan casually lights up a cigarette in the hospital hallway while waiting for her appointment; also, when a doctor is primping and preparing to meet her, he fluffs his mullet.
Scariest Moment: The killer advances on a nurse, holding a bedsheet up in front of his body so you can only see his silhouette.
Weirdest Moment: What we're meant to believe is a bloody corpse propped up in the elevator turns out to be a man eating a very ketchupy burger who briefly fell asleep.
Champion Dialogue: "Can you touch her whenever you like in all her secret places?"
Body Count: 10
  1. David has his head impaled on a coat rack.
  2. Dr. Jacobs is stabbed to death.
  3. Bow Tie Janitor has his face shoved in a sink full of acid.
  4. Suzie is stabbed to death.
  5. Nancy is garroted.
  6. Jack is decapitated with a skull saw, and his head is put in a Valentine's box.
  7. Dr. Saxon is axed in the head.
  8. Green Scrubs Lady is injected with... something bad.
  9. Surgeon gets a spike through the throat.
  10. Harold falls off the roof on fire.
TL;DR: Hospital Massacre makes very few attempts to even resemble a motion picture, but it's kind of captivatingly zany.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1370

No comments:

Post a Comment