Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In short: Hospital Massacre (1981)

aka X-Ray

Susan Jeremy (Barbi Benton) is just popping in to the local hospital to get the results of a routine check-up, but soon finds herself kept in for a possible deadly disease the doctors won’t name. Of course, given that this is the kind of hospital that has a random room full of creepy people with respiratory problems, another one loaded with moaning patients bandaged-up mummy style, where the patients of the mental ward seem to be randomly mixed with the rest of the patients and which employs doctors who put the sexual assault into medical examination, this sort of thing is par for the course for the place.

The root cause of Susan’s troubles is a particularly weird slasher killer who goes around killing off doctors and nurses all in service of faking Susan’s tests so she has to stay in the hospital. And here I thought Jason Voorhees and his adventures on a cruise ship and the New York sewers were weird.

Boaz Davidson’s Hospital Massacre is Cannon Film’s attempt to catch a bit of that sweet slasher trend money; the emphasis here is strictly on the word attempt, for this thing is a dire abomination whose divergences from the standard slasher formula are actually so bad, they could grant one an appreciation for the more classic tropes it eschews.

If the synopsis didn’t already suggest it, the whole thing takes place in a parallel universe where nothing makes sense, hospitals operate on the basis of random assumptions, and slashers have even better teleport powers than in more sane (I’d never believe I’d use that word to describe the slasher genre) pastures of the genre. Seriously, our killer here can basically be in two places at the same time.

Now, given my usual tastes, the film’s utter you have to see it to believe it weirdness should make this an easy recommendation for the easily distracted who always wanted to see a movie that needs a creepy medical examination as an excuse to show its Playmate lead actress’s breasts, or features a hospital so puzzling it might have been dreamed up by Thomas Ligotti. Curiously, though, I found myself mostly bored and annoyed by the film’s randomness, Davidson’s shoddy direction, the lack of even basic narrative structure in the script, and an “acting” performance by a female lead who can’t even express the most basic of human emotions. In the world of nude models acting in B-movies, Benton makes Pamela Anderson look like Harvey Keitel.

It’s a film so off, so strange, and just so obviously confused about how a horror film is supposed to work, it should be pushing all of my buttons, but in practice, I never, ever want to suffer through the thing again. Perhaps it is the film’s visible lack of enthusiasm for its own ideas that’s putting me off this much?

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