Lee Grant stars as a tough fem news woman fighting to save a battered woman from prison. Grant’s activism sets off a maniac (Michael Ironside), is attacked, and spends the rest of the film in a hospital. Ironside follows Grant to the hospital to finish the job. William Shatner is Grant’s TV producer and Linda Purl is a nurse who befriends Grant.
Michael Ironside is the real star of Visiting Hours. The killer, Colt Hawker, is a complete sociopath. He kills stabs women and takes pictures of them while their life slips away. Colt is a real monster, we pass him on the street or see him in the grocery store. But this monster was created by an abusive parent. We pity Colt, even though we’re scared shitless by him. Colt possesses the cunning of a animal and killer instinct of a shark.
Director Jean Claude Lord uses misdirection to build suspense. He makes the audience think Ironside is in one location, then shocks us when we think the characters are safe. Despite a lack of blood and gore, the murders are still shocking because the camera never flinches from the deaths. The audience, like the victims, suffer through long agonizing death scenes. Like the men in the film, we are helpless to save the women in danger.
The flaw in hospital slasher films is the Heroine is stuck in bed for most of the film. Grant has little to do until the end except scream and cuss. It’s ironic, Grant’s independent character has to rely on others, and no one can make her safer. Linda Purl has a similar plight, none of the male police will help her when Ironside is stalking her little girl.
Visiting Hours is an excellent slasher, certainly the best slasher to take place in a hospital. Without Ironside’s performance the film would be routine. A fun game to play while watching Visiting Hours is “spot the slasher vet cameo.” Lenore (Happy Birthday to Me) Zann, Harvey (Funeral Home) Atkin, and Neil (Axel from My Bloody Valentine) Affleck make appearances in small roles. And of course, William Shatner wears Michael Myers face during the whole film.