X-Ray (1981) Review

Young Susan’s (Bloody Birthday’s Elizabeth Hoy) Valentine’s Day party is ruined when crazy little Harold (Billy Jacoby of Just One of the Guys) impales a kid on a coat rack and leaves him dangling like a meaty pinata. 19 years later, Susan (Playboy model Barbi Benton) visits a hospital just to pick up test results for a new insurance policy. After a psychotic surgeon murders Susan’s doctor and switches the test results, Susan finds herself trapped in the hospital by egotistical doctors and stormtrooper nurses who shuttle her from one examination room to another without explanation. After losing her freedom, dignity, and most of her clothes, Susan fights back only to learn a childhood monster still wants her heart on Valentine’s.

Hospital Massacre is truly a different type of slasher, mixing the holiday-themed and hospital slasher sub-genres into a really bizarre film. Boaz Davidson, better know for directing comedies like The Last American Virgin and the Lemon Popsicle series, does a nice job of keeping the viewer on edge with nightmarish visuals, odd ball characters, and camera tricks that distract the viewer from guessing the killer’s true location during the murder scenes. Davidson tries to add suspense by making every male character look and act in a sinister manner. Sadly, the suspense is sharply cut if the viewer can remember the name of killer brat in the prologue. Marc Behm’s script plays like a weird Kafka novel with a slasher thrown in to shake up the strange happenings. Many questions and subplots go unresolved, one example being Susan and the viewer never learn why the doctors suddenly go ballistic every time they see her falsified test results.

Gore fans will find the numerous creative kills rather satisfying. The opening murder is so brutal that one wonders how Davidson got the scene past the MPAA censors. Other highlights include bone saw to the neck, metal hatchet to the cranium, and an acid facial. Having these extreme death sequences only helps Hospital Massacre as it gives the viewer a reason to keep watching after the film gets bogged down by too many questions and not enough answers. The Doctor (Don Grenough during the murders) could have been a little more creepy if he didn’t wheeze like an asthmatic surrounded by cats. Grenough does more heavy breathing than an obscene phone caller with a pocket full of quarters. Barbi Benton, who provides a couple of “highlights” during an examination scene, does a fine job of portraying a woman trapped in a nightmarish situation and has the lung power to pull off the scream queen requirements.

Davidson gives a wink to the other Valentine slasher, My Bloody Valentine, when Barbi Benton is stopped on an elevator by three men dressed like Harry Warden. Instead of a candy box containing a human heart, Benton receives a cake box with a severed head. A page for “Dr. Carpenter” can be heard in the background of one scene provides another slasher in-joke. The funniest visual occurs when Benton runs into a room screaming for help only to find three men in traction and bandaged like mummies.

Hospital Massacre (also released as X-Ray) began life as Be My Valentine…Or Else, an advertisement for the film under that title can be seen after the credits of New Year’s Evil. Since this film was produced by The Cannon Group it has some of the same plot elements as the other slashers released by the company; the victims aren’t teenagers and the heroine is a strong career woman trying to overcome the problems of a difficult marriage. The weird plot may be a turn off for some slasher fans but the brutal murders and strange humor definitely makes Hospital Massacre worth watching.

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2 Responses to “ X-Ray (1981) Review ”

  1. Sadly forgotten by most, but this was always one of my favorite slashers. DVD NOW!

  2. Watched this a while ago, when I was looking for horrors that take place around Valentine’s Day.

    Made a TV Tropes article for it.

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