I don’t cover nearly enough 80’s slasher movies during these marathons so let’s correct that right now with this oddity from another one of my Scream Factory discs. I find with the slasher genre it’s going to go one of two ways; surprisingly watchable or the worst thing you have ever seen. I tend to mostly end up with the latter so imagine my surprise when X-Ray (or Hospital Massacre as it’s apparently more commonly referred to as) plops itself in the former category, though perhaps with a foot or a leg still lingering in the latter one.
The movie opens with a surprisingly grisly sequence where this young girl Susan and her male friend are hanging out and playing with model trains, as young people are known to do. This kid Harold is jealously watching from a window (how in the hell do they not see him there?! He’s like 2 feet away from them and not being subtle at all!) and has left a valentine for Susan. She and her friend open it up, relentlessly mock Harold, then crumple up the card and toss it aside. Harold, still watching from the window, looks none too pleased. When Susan goes to the kitchen to get herself come cake (a scene that is for some inexplicable reason given the suspense treatment as she slowly walks across the room with a knife, we know she’s gonna cut cake, not a human being, she already made her intentions clear! This is way too much to put in a bracket but it’s too late to turn back now) she returns to find her friend dead, hanging from the neck on a coat rack. Harold looks psyched about what has happened here and runs off.
Cut to the present when Susan is grown up and has a daughter and an ex-husband and a new boyfriend. She goes to the hospital to grab some test results but a man in a surgical mask fakes a bunch of documents so that it appears she is horribly ill, forcing her to be confined to the hospital. All the while the dude in the surgical mask is roaming the most sparsely employed hospital on the planet and murdering a bunch of people whose absences are somehow never noticed by any other member of the staff. Gee, I wonder if this ties into that unconnected opening murder that we just saw….
So yes it’s all the same slasher shit we’ve seen a hundred times but it’s all about the execution and thankfully this one is mostly done well, though that thinking could also be due to my basement low expectations for this one. There is some well-done suspense and the body count is quite high, a pretty crucial factor of a successful slasher movie. The violence involved in those kills however is merely ok. Outside of a face being shoved in acid (complete with grisly after shot), the murders are largely stabbings that are quite bloody but still happen off camera. Though there is one scene involving a white sheet and a needle that is appropriately unsettling. This movie also has the most blood fake-outs in history. “Oh shit there’s blood dripping on my shoe! Ooooo wait no it’s ketchup from a hamburger.” That sort of thing happens a few times. People really need to take in their immediate surroundings before they start freaking out over nothing.
The killer himself is not all that interesting and while they try and create a sense of mystery around who he is, we saw that opening scene so we damn well know who the killer is. I mean come on movie, who do you think you’re kidding with this one? He does however get his own ridiculous theme music. It’s a wee bit insane. Every time he appears a bunch of voices on the soundtrack start screaming “he sees you he sees you he sees you” or least that’s what it sounds like they are saying. I guess it’s supposed to be scary but the first time it made me burst out laughing and eventually it becomes tiresome as it gets busted out a loooot. Still though, can’t say I’ve seen such a thing in a horror movie before so they get credit for doing something original at least.
Barbi Benton is solid as Susan, doing a good job portraying both her fear and general frustration at her situation. Seriously, all the doctors and nurses in this hospital are huge assholes. It’s one thing not to believe Susan that there is a killer roaming the halls but they get so mad at her for mentioning it. The nurses look like they are ready to start smashing her against a wall whenever they have to interact with her and at one point I recall one of them flat out slapping her across the face when she won’t completely cooperate. Though I have to say that I liked the moment when one nurse informs Susan’s boyfriend that Susan is under observation. He replies “What do you mean she’s under observation?” and her response is a blunt and sarcastic “It means she’s under observation.” As someone who despises the “what do you mean…” question more than just about anything on the planet, I quite enjoyed that little exchange. Outside of that though the dialogue is pretty blah, mostly consisting of Susan screaming that people need to believe her and that they are all assholes. They are certainly assholes don’t get me wrong, but it grows wearisome.
X-Ray is a decent enough slasher movie that at least doesn’t commit the usual slasher sin of being painfully boring. There’s enough weird shit going on here to keep things interesting and it moves along at a good clip. Also if you like your nudity presented in long, unsettling examination sequences then this might be your only chance to get a good fix of that so jump on in!