Visiting Hours (1988/1982)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: February 18, 2014) In August 2013, Scream Factory-one of the leading distributors of genre films on Blu-ray-released an excellent double feature of two doctor-related slasher films from the 1980s, 1982's bat-shit crazy "X-Ray" and 1980's Klaus Kinski curiosity "Schizo." Six months later, they're at it again with another lovingly crafted double feature of two more lesser-known but well-liked hospital-related horror pics from the golden decade of the slasher craze.
In Andrew Fleming's "Bad Dreams," Jennifer Rubin stars as Cynthia, a young woman who wakes from a 13-year coma to find that she was the sole survivor of a fiery mass suicide led by Unity Fields cult leader Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch). As she recovers in the hospital and attempts to come to terms with her past, the other members of her therapy group begin dying off in increasingly violent ways. The doctors believe them to be self-inflicted, but Cynthia is convinced they are actually the work of Harris' evil spirit, back to reclaim her as one of his eternal followers. If viewers can get over the uncanny similarities between this film and 1987's "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (which also, coincidentally or not, starred Rubin), what they will find is a rather thoughtful, almost cerebral dramatic thriller that plays upon one's trepidations with the medical profession and the fear of losing one's own individuality. Rough around the edges, even a little clunky in its sometimes languid pacing, the 80-minute "Bad Dreams" nevertheless holds a provocative premise, one that edges away from more obvious killer-in-a-mask slashers and hauntingly mirrors the events of Jonestown. Richard Lynch is majorly creepy as the Jim Jones-like leader of the cult, while an unexpected visual reference to Andrew Wyeth's iconic painting "Christina's World" is worth applauding. Also of note: an effective soundtrack of recognizable songs that enhance the picture's mood, including "Time Has Come Today" by The Chamber Brothers and, most indelibly, Guns n' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" over the closing credits.
"Visiting Hours," directed by Jean-Claude Lord, is also a welcome respite from more obvious '80s stabathons in that teenagers are in short supply and all of the principle characters are adults. When controversial feminist television journalist Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) is brutally assaulted in her home, she is transported to County General Hospital. As she slowly recuperates, her mentally ill attacker, Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside), moves ever closer to tracking her down, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. The 103-minute "Visiting Hours" has a jerky narrative, trading time following Deborah, Colt, and also single nurse and mother Sheila Munroe (Linda Purl). It's a film full of starts and stops, with a villain who is psychologically gripping but also an obvious sufferer of ADHD. One minute he's sneaking into the surgical prep room, then he's following Sheila to her home, then he's luring the unsuspecting Lisa (Lenore Zann) back to his apartment, then he's cleaning the studio where Deborah works, then he's back at the hospital. If the story could afford to be tightened, director Lord gives the picture a mature, sophisticated confidence and weaves a number of socko stingers and jump scares into the frequently suspenseful proceedings. Michael Ironside is especially chilling, alternately magnetic and vicious, as the sociopathic Colt. If "X-Ray" is the perfect hospital slasher to watch while having a few rounds of drinks with friends, "Visiting Hours" is akin to its more competent, upscale cousin.
Bad Dreams: A-/A-
Visiting Hours: A/A-
Scream Factory originally released "Bad Dreams" and "Visiting Hours" as a double feature on regular DVD in 2011, and have now upgraded those video and audio masters to the freshened land of high definition. The increase in quality is apparent immediately, the 1080p transfers more natural and accurately film-like than before, with boosts in image detail and colors-the blacks, for example, are far richer and deeper. As a low-budget production of the late-'80s, "Bad Dreams" neither can compete with newer movies nor gets the chance to really flaunt itself as eye candy. That isn't the kind of film this is. If the picture does not absolutely burst from the screen, it does impress all the same in that it looks exactly as was intended in 1988. Only minor small specks of dirt show up from time to time, but this is otherwise a pristine transfer. The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio gets maximum mileage out of its soundtrack and sound effects while ensuring that dialogue is always clear. "Sweet Child o' Mine" particularly sounds outstanding, filling the surround field. A DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is also included. When it comes to the six-years-older "Visiting Hours," it is smooth sailing once the unsightly opening shot, full of visual noise, is over and done with. This is a bravura 1080p rendering, looking more often than not like it's shiny and new (particularly considering it was made three decades ago). Facial details, from the wrinkles around mouths and eyes to the scar on Ironside's face, are vivid and lifelike, with no signs of waxiness or DNR. The hospital setting jolts to life throughout, becoming a character in and of itself. There are very few complaints to be had with the film's DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, either. An exceptionally nice job all around.
Bad Dreams: Audio Commentary with director Andrew Fleming; "Dream Cast" featurette (21:34, HD), featuring interviews with actors Jennifer Rubin, Dean Cameron, Bruce Abbott and Richard Lynch; "Make-Up Effects" featurette (2:12, HD); "Behind the Scenes" featurette (9:15, HD); Original Ending (9:53, HD); Promo Trailer (3:44, HD); Theatrical Trailers (1:50, HD); Photo Gallery (4:26, HD)
Visiting Hours: "Brian Taggert: The B-Movie Kid" - an interview with screenwriter Brian Taggert (43:42, HD); "Une Visite Avec" - an interview with producer Pierre David (11:18, HD); "Visiting with Lenore Zann" - an interview with actress Lenore Zann (22:59, HD); Radio Spot (0:32, HD); TV Spots (2:09, HD); Photo Gallery (0:55, HD)
Horror buffs, take note! Scream Factory's "Bad Dreams"/"Visiting Hours" Blu-ray will be a treat for anyone interested in either film or looking to explore a few underseen mini-gems from the 1980s they might have missed. If neither film is "great," per se, they are both certainly solid and worth picking up in a nice package that also includes a number of excellent special features (including several brand-new interviews on "Visiting Hours" new to this set). For those potential consumers who already own the DVD version and are curious if it's worth the upgrade, it most definitely is. Looking and sounding better than ever-and with additional bonus content to sweeten the pot-the "Bad Dreams"/"Visiting Hours" double feature comes highly recommended.
|© 2014 by Dustin Putman||