X-ray aka Hospital Massacre (1981)

Hospital Massacre 1981 Review

Tagline: You have nothing to fear…until they operate.
Director: Boaz Davidson

Writers: Marc Behm (screenplay) Boaz Davidson (story)

Starring: Barbi Benton, Charles Lucia, Jon Van Ness, John Warner Williams, Den Surles, Gloria Jean Morrison, Karen Smith, Michael Frost, Jimmy Stathis

18 | 1hr 29min |Horror, Slasher
Budget: unknown

 

Review

Some twists are so obvious you never see them coming.

Made during the early 80s slasher boom, Hospital Massacre is another slash-by-numbers feature buried beneath the reams of explicit VHS tape, but one that retains a certain charm, most notably because of its impossibly beautiful leading lady Barbi Benton, a former glamour model who smoulders so hard she threatens to melt the screen.

When Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus bought the cash-strapped Cannon Group at the turn of the 80s they had a very different business model in mind. Founders Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey had peddled soft porn before upping the stakes by producing larger scale movies on a tight budget. They had been prudent, and it had failed. But Golan-Globus had bigger ambitions, and in the burgeoning video market they saw their chance to get off the ground.

Golan-Globus Hospital Massacre

Golan-Globus welcome their cocaine dealer.

The company is perhaps most famous for its highly successful, low-budget action vehicles. Movies such as Enter the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination and American Ninja were largely responsible for the VHS ninja craze of the 1980s, but in 1981 the slasher movie was the undisputed king of the video market, and you best believe they were about to get themselves a piece of the pie.

This was relatively new territory for them, and the casting of Barbi Benton was their masterstroke. Other than that the movie fails quite astonishingly as am exercise in horror. All the ingredients are there, including a ludicrous number of alternate titles that include X-Ray, Ward 13 and Be My Valentine, but it fails to grasp any of them beyond the glaringly obvious. It is a straight-up cash-in with a single-minded purpose, but unlike other slasher derivatives, such as Jo D’Amato’s Absurd, it’s goal is not to displease its way to notoriety. In fact, so haphazard is the pursuit of its goal that it can be downright charming at times. In pure Golan-Globus fashion the movie is crammed with so many ludicrous moments, purposeful and otherwise, that you can’t help but be charmed by it.

Hospital Massacre 1981 Review

Susan stumbled onto the wrong ward in search of assistance.

Like a gazillion other slashers our killer’s motive is rooted in childhood. The story begins in 1961, when a young Susan finds a Valentine’s card from admirer Harry, only to mock his sentiment with another male friend. Unluckily for that little blighter, Harry is not the most stable of children, and after his prepubescent frame somehow finds the height and strength to hang his love rival from an eight foot hat rack, his grinning face sticks around long enough for Susan to establish him as the guilty party.

Twenty years have passed and Susan is a happily married woman and mother of one who fails to exhibit even a morsel of mental scarring, laughing off her husband’s reminder of a recent massacre that took place in the Los Angeles County hospital where she is due some test results. You might say this is pretty careless behaviour, but in spite of her gruesome past, a now adult Susan (Benton) does have a point. I mean, what are the odds that two massacres would take place at the same location in as many years. Pretty slim, right? As are the chances that one of the doctors would share the name of the demented child who had killed Susan’s friend all those years ago. Although, if this was the same person, surely she would recognise him! I mean, how could she not?

Hospital Massacre sheets

This serial killer business would prove rather more difficult than first anticipated.

Regardless of the who, what, where and why, bodies soon begin to fall at an alarming rate, and when Susan’s X-Ray comes back looking like a tapeworm, doctors begin to fear for her life. In light of these findings, she is forced to spend the night on a hospital ward with three croaky old hags who ooze foreboding like the three witches of Macbeth. But the lunacy doesn’t stop there. As hospitals go, this one is a veritable nuthouse, a building under partial fumigation where drunks and perverts wander the corridors unchallenged.

In a thinly disguised twist, it turns out that somebody has switched Susan’s results in an attempt to prolong her stay at the hospital, and with our delightfully frenzied killer masquerading in full surgeon regalia, it is impossible to identify the true culprit. Although, when doctor Saxon (Williams) demands that Susan strip nude for a routine round of testing and practically begins fondling her, your suspicions start to stir somewhat, especially when he dismisses her claims of seeing her husband’s head in a gift box and straps her to a gurney like a mental patient. But with half of the movie left to run, it couldn’t be that simple, could it?

Hospital Massacre Benton

How do you expect me to perform this operation while you’re still wearing panties?

This is harebrained fare, but the movie has its positives. A wonderful, non-synth score is enough to substitute for an almost complete lack of tension, one that often juxtaposes with the perplexing levels of silliness that seem to spring up from every sterile corridor. There are also some pretty decent kills on offer, which, though far from the most brutal the genre has to offer, are rather fun and creative, and yes, downright ludicrous. Is this essential viewing for slasher fans? Perhaps not. But it is essential viewing for anyone fascinated with Cannon’s inimitable thumbprint, which elevates the movie above the realms of mediocrity, resulting in a goofy delight that will either leave you grinning from ear to ear or shaking your head in disbelief.

What a wonderful time to be a horror fan.

Best Kill

After finding one of the hospital’s nurses slashed to ribbons and hanging upside-down in an improbably placed locker, a perverted janitor has his mush deliquesced in a pool of sulphuric acid.

Most Absurd Moment

While taking the hospital elevator, Susan is aghast to see a seemingly dead man leaning against the corner with an inordinate amount of blood dripping from his mouth, only to realise at the last moment that the man is actually a drunken slob eating a burger and the blood is in fact ketchup.

Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds.

Most Absurd Dialogue

Moments before leaving his once traumatised, murder-witnessing wife at the hospital, husband Jack suddenly remembers something.

Jack: ‘Hey, wait! isn’t this the hospital where they had all that trouble last year?’

Susan: ‘What trouble?’

Jack: ‘Some patient ran amok or something.’

Susan: (scoffing) ‘Oh, please!’ (laughing)

Revival Rating

Revival RatingRevival RatingRevival Rating

 

 

A madcap slasher with a wonderfully psychotic killer, this wholly unoriginal movie is as devoid of sense as you might expect from a Golan-Globus production, a fact that elevates and detracts in equal measure. But pay special attention to the wrathful, Omen-esque original score, which ricochets off the darkened corridors like an Argento sensory overload.

AUTHOR BIO

Bio
 
Cedric Smarts
: Editor-in-Chief and Art Director

 
Science fiction author, horror enthusiast, scourge of plutocracy, shortlisted for the H. G. Wells Award, creator of vhsrevival.com
 
Likes: 80s poster art, Vangelis, classical liberalism, dystopian allegories, dissident political activism, Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, George Saunders, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut

 



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