Director – Jean Claude Lord, Screenplay – Brian Taggert, Producer – Claude Heroux, Photography – Rene Verzier, Music – Jonathan Goldsmith, Special Effects – Gary Zeller, Makeup Effects – Stephen DuPuis, Art Direction – Michael Proulx. Production Company – Filmplan International.
Michael Ironside (Colt Hawker), Lee Grant (Deborah Ballin), Linda Purl (Sheila Monroe), William Shatner (Gary Baylor), Lenore Zann (Lisa), Debra Kirschenbaum (Connie Wexler), Helen Hughes (Louise Shepherd), Harvey Atkin (Vinnie Bradshaw)
Newscaster Deborah Ballin is an outspoken opponent of violence in society and stands up for women who have been victimised. Misogynistic psychopath Colt Hawker breaks into Deborah’s home and stabs her. She makes an escape from him and is taken to hospital to recover. There however Hawker returns to stalk Deborah’s nurses and then come after her.
This Canadian-made entry is one of the more professional among the early 1980s slasher cycle. It falls into a mini-spate of films among the slasher fad that all came out around the same period on the theme of women newsreaders being stalked by psychos with the likes of Someone’s Watching Me (1978), Eyes of a Stranger (1981) and The Seduction (1982), while there was also The Fan (1981) with aging actress Lauren Bacall becoming the target of an obsessed fan.
In many respects, Visiting Hours emerges as generic. Nevertheless, director Jean Claude Lord manages to create considerable tension and suspense, while avoiding many of the cliches of the genre with frequently effective results. Especially good are some of the opening scenes with Michael Ironside pursuing Lee Grant through her house and down a dumb waiter shaft. The film has some strikingly perverse images – like the scene where Michael Ironside slashes an old lady’s oxygen tube and sits taking photographs as she expires; or the killing of Harvey Atkin by Ironside shoving a rubber ball into his mouth and taping it shut. On the minus side, the film never amounts of anything more than a series of stalking and pursuit sequences – ones that continue almost without interruption for 90 minutes.
The show is dominated by a brutal performance from Michael Ironside who seems to specialise in these tight-lipped, seethingly cold characters. Ironside was cast directly off the back of his breakout performance in David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) and roles like these seemed to cement a career full of bad guy performances for him. While Ironside has never delivered anything as strong as this subsequently, here he goes nasty and plays to the gallery for all that he can. Though they are top-lined, both Lee Grant and William Shatner give the impression they accepted a flat fee for only a few days performance and the script was tailored around this. As a result, the bulk of the film focuses less on them than on Michael Ironside’s stalker (which gives more focus to the psycho of the show and his motivation than we usually ended up getting in other slasher films of the period) and Linda Purl as the nurse he pursues for much of the middle of the film. Lee Grant is only there largely at the beginning and end, while William Shatner plays nothing more than the hand-wringing boyfriend/station manager in a handful of scenes.
Visiting Hours was the seventh film for Quebecois Canadian director Jean Claude Lord, the first he made in English language and received the most high-profile theatrical release of any work he has made to date. Lord languished in English-language exploitation films and video release for a few years, making efforts like Covergirl (1984) and Eddie and the Cruises II: Eddie Lives (1989). He also ventured into genre cinema with the cyborg film The Vindicator (1986) and the mind control experiments film Mindfield (1989). All of his work since the 1990s has been in television.