I don’t really consider this movie horror though that’s the way it’s advertised. A slasher horror movie is more like the Friday: The 13th franchise or even something like Sleepaway Camp. Yes, one maniac is knocking people off left and right but there’s usually a lot of what the killer deems as inappropriate behavior: premarital sex, drinking, drugs, and the like. I’m not saying all horror is like this but for the ones that incorporate a single villain, the body count it high and usually creative and gory.
Visiting Hours didn’t really have that which is why I’d consider it more of a thriller with some horrific elements. The killer is highly intelligent and motivated, mostly by a hatred of women, with some kind of delusional or narcissistic disorder. If he were simply batshit crazy, I’d lean more toward horror.
Lee Grant plays hard hitting journalist, Deborah Ballin, who takes no shit from anyone just because she’s a woman. On her TV show, she verbally attacks the lawyer for the prosecution in a case of a battered wife who shot her abusive husband. Colt Hawker, woman hater extraordinaire, watches her show, all the while squeezing the life out of a stress ball.
After having a fight with her boyfriend, Greg (William Shatner, if you can believe it), Deborah comes home to find the house an absolute mess. Unfortunately, she thinks it’s her assistant’s doing. I say unfortunately because Colt is hiding in her home and attacks her with a knife. And for some reason he’s wearing all her jewelry. He does not succeed in killing her, though, because in 1982 when someone yells for help out of their window to a couple next door, the couple doesn’t pull out a video camera to film it then sell it to TMZ for buttloads of cash.
The rest of the film is basically Colt trying to weasel his way past security to finish the job he started on Deborah. Anyone who gets in his way is disposed of swiftly, usually with Colt’s giant switchblade. Compensating much? All the while, most people surrounding Deborah think she’s being paranoid about Colt still out there hunting for her. She must take it upon herself to end this game of cat and mouse.
I do enjoy a good flick about one psycho tormenting one particular victim (When a Stranger Calls is one of my favorite films – also something I consider a thriller). But this was not that great of a film. All of the characters seemed like paper dolls – flat and no depth but obviously they all chew gum 24/7 because that’s what people did in the 80s. That’s SO authentic. *did you catch my sarcasm there?*
The writers tried to give some backstory but honestly, I didn’t care about any of them. The exception being Colt Hawker, played by the immensely talented Michael Ironside.
The writers really gave us a lot of info on him. He revered his father, an abusive asshole who, when his abused wife had had enough of his shenanigans and threw boiling hot oil in his face, was severely injured. Obviously this is the turning point in Colt’s mental development. He uses women for his purposes (read: sex because he still likes all their bits) but he goes beyond emulating his father’s history. He pulls out his switchblade, cuts them, bites them, and beats the crap out of them. For one scene, when he gets some hot young blonde to come home with him because, you know, Michael Ironside…it’s very uncomfortable to watch.
When he kills women he doesn’t like (which is, let’s face it, all of them) he takes photographs of them as they die and tapes them up in the shape of a death mask in his closet. The guy is obviously psychotic but he’s extremely intelligent. The way he can outmaneuver the cops to get at Deborah is one example of his genius.
A lot of the story, though, is terrible. Everyone treating Deborah as paranoid despite the obvious connection between her and the various deaths happening at the hospital angered me. I got the feeling this movie was supposed to be about strong women but they were thwarted at every turn by the authorities when they truly needed help, or they were attacked and ridiculed. Even Gary told Deborah what she did on her show triggered this psychopath. Are you fucking kidding me?
The longer I watched the movie the more frustrated I became. The only thing worth watching was Michael Ironside’s performance as Colt. The hate and rage he channels through a filter of psychosis is absolutely chilling to behold. By the end I was kind of hoping he’d succeed in killing Deborah. Maybe you think that’s antifeminist of me or just a little kooky. But I think that speaks volumes more about the shitty story and character development than my lack of empathy.
1.5 Hatchets (out of 5)