It's amazing what a few hazy memories and a really cool trailer can do for a horror flick's reputation. I have very clear memories of the Visiting Hours theatrical trailer: It showed the outside of a hospital with lots of lit-up windows. Slowly the lights would wink off, one by one, until the only illuminated windows that remained looked exactly like a skull. It was a cool trailer, honest.
And I distinctly remember me and my hardcore horror pals giving the thing a rental one gore-centric weekend (along with stuff like Humongous, Blood Beach, and Humanoids from the Deep, I imagine), and I further recall our opinion being of the positive persuasion. Then again, we were 14-year-olds who thought Bloodsucking Freaks was high art.
Unfortunately, a recent meeting between a now-grown-up (and therefore undeniably intelligent) me and Jean-Claude Lord's Visiting Hours yields a decidedly more concrete response: It's a piece of junk.
A Canadian cheapie picked up for distribution by Fox, who was probably tired of seeing Paramount clean house with their new Friday the 13th series, Visiting Hours feels like an especially boring medical show that, every 26 minutes or so, morphs into an exceedingly inept slasher flick that somehow stars Lee Grant, William Shatner, and (get this) Michael Ironside as a raving lunatic serial killer nutbag.
Ms. Grant (only a few years removed from an Oscar win, mind you) plays a brazen journalist who's presently on a crusade against domestic violence. Her candor attracts the attention of a pro-violence whack-job, who promptly stabs her. Which predicates a trip to the hospital. Where the killer is hiding, periodically stopping to harass pretty young Linda Purl, whom you might remember from the late section of Happy Days that really stunk.
Clumsily directed, painfully paced, and all but entirely lacking in anything even remotely resembling atmosphere, dread, or simple ol' scariness, Visiting Hours is an aggressively dull and painfully overlong experience, and its only the most ardent slasher aficionadoes who'll find something to like in its misshapen 105 minutes.
Aside from Ironside's goofily feral performance, the thing's just one big yawn.
Video: Anchor Bay delivers the forgotten ol' flick in a fairly clean anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, which sounds solid enough for a movie this lame.
Extras: Argh, and that creepy ol' trailer isn't even included. You'll get a shorter version, though, since four different TV spots are available, as is a radio spot, and bunch of trailers for The Anniversary, The Entity, Quicksilver Highway, Ghost in the Machine, and Bad Dreams.
Imagine Halloween 2 mixed with an especially boring episode of St. Elsewhere, only without all the creepy music and effectively gory jolts.