Hospital Massacre (X-Ray) (1981) Review

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“A hospital? What is it?”

“It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

Hospital Massacre (X-Ray) (1982): 5 out of 10: also known as “X-Ray” is a 1982 horror film directed by Boaz Davidson.

The story follows Susan Jeremy (Barbi Benton), a woman who goes for a routine check-up at a local hospital. What should have been a straightforward visit becomes a nightmare when she becomes the target of a twisted killer. Trapped in the seemingly safe yet foreboding environment, Susan must navigate the hospital’s labyrinthine corridors and ward off the mysterious assailant who is seemingly hellbent on ending her life.

The hospital’s sterile, quiet halls turn into an eerie maze as Susan experiences a growing sense of paranoia. The staff around her seem oblivious to the danger, and Susan is left to fend for herself. As the body count starts to rise, Susan is forced to face the chilling realization that she may not make it out of the hospital alive.

The movie is a blend of slasher and psychological horror, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats as they root for Susan in her battle for survival.

The Good

The Good: Hospital Massacre had one job. Show actress Barbi Benton naked in a good light. Understandably, one might think showing the actress naked as the principal goal of the film is crass. But this is Barbi Benton, who was Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend for many years (And seemingly his favorite) and who had appeared in Playboy multiple times as one does when you date Hef. Heck, she is the one who found him the Playboy Mansion in LA and got him out of Chicago.

Outside of a blink and you miss it flash in 1970s Naughty Cheerleader (or Mir hat es immer Spaß gemacht as it is known on IMDb) Barbi Benton had never appeared nude in film. One could easily surmise that her nude scene would have the kind of box office draw as Farrah Fawcett’s nude scene in Saturn 3 or Julie Andrews nude scene in S.O.B.. One would be wrong, but I can see what the filmmakers were going for.

Let’s give director Hospital Massacre and director Boaz Davidson credit. They did not screw up the assignment. The rest of the movie is a hot mess, but they stuck the landing on this one thing. In fact, Barbi Benton, clothed or not, gives a decent performance and certainly holds her own. She is easily the best thing in the Hospital Massacre. As damning with faint praise as that is.

Did writers of Hopital Massacre recently see the movie Airplane! ?

Airplane! came out around the time writers Marc Behm (Charade and Help!) and Boaz Davidson (Lemon Popsicle and Alien Lockdown) would have been scripting Hospital Massacre. There seem to be a lot of references to Airplane in the finished script.

There is Barbi Benton’s boyfriend waiting outside for her in his BMW for hours on end, like Howard Jarvis in the taxi in Airplane.

One of Barbi Benton’s hospital roommates is a dead ringer for Ethel Merman.

The Doctor and the nurses lining up to slap Barbi Benton to calm her down.

There are other references to Airplane (and other movies. I swear the hospital interiors are the same ones from the first Godfather movie.) but the overall tone of Hospital Massacre seems like that of an over the top parody film. And yet it isn’t one. My real question is was it meant to be during the pre-production and they changed thier minds with Cannon group wanting to jump on the slasher film bandwagon.

Surrealism

Okay, so maybe Hospital Massacre is not a comedy. Maybe it is an experiment in surrealism. Again, we have tons of evidence on screen. The mysterious ninth floor with the people in gas masks and the endless fog. The three old ladies patrolling the halls like Macbeth’s witches. The disease that Barbi Benton is supposed to have that appears on the x-rays like she ate a Christmas tree’s worth of tinsel.

Every character is sinister, including the doctors and nurses. Every character seeming just a little off. Even by slasher movie standards, the people in Hospital Massacre have a very low sense of self preservation. In once case, an overly made up mannish nurse has to help the killer as he attempts to murder her with a bed sheet.

The Ugly

The Ugly: There is a lot here, so let’s focus on two things. First the soundtrack. While overall not as bad as say The Outlaw’s soundtrack, it is ridiculously over the top like a hyperactive child. But it is the killer’s theme music that sets it apart. You know how Jason has that classic “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” well our killer here has some sort of Omen soundtrack chanting “it’s Cecil it’s Cecil it’s Cecil” over and over. It is a mindboggling choice.

The kills are really poorly done. As mentioned above, some victims seem to have to help the killer out. There clearly was no one on set who knew how to do practical effects and the guy who was supposed to buy fake blood called out sick so they use some sort of red watery HI-C looking liquid that barely shows up on film.

A well-placed jump scare can be effective. A jump scare every thirty seconds is less effective. Scaring the main character every other frame before she is aware there is a killer seems beyond pointless. At times, the “is this a parody or a surrealistic experimental film?” thoughts kick in. No one can think this is scary or effective.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: I can be seduced by baffling films that are bad and make no sense, yet are interesting. (Cough Ulli Lommel’s Black Dahlia cough). Hospital Massacure comes close. It really does. I have great understanding and sympathy for those that claim this is so bad it is good. Or that Hospital Massacure is their go to feel good fun film. I feel you, brother.

Hospital Massacre simply fails on too many levels. It can be entertaining as a trip down memory lane (smoking in hospitals) and Barbi Benton is fun. It can be weird enough to be interesting even. Hospital Massacre fails horribly as a slasher movie, which in the end is what it is trying to be.

You’ll be swell! You’ll be great!
Gonna have the whole world on the plate!
Starting here, starting now,
honey, everything’s coming up roses!
What’s in the box?
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air”
Leaving aside that this guy has been parked right outside the hospital entrance for almost the entire movie. How did he even get a parking spot right outside the hospital entrance to begin with? Is it a BMW thing?
I know I already described a nurse as mannish above. And I hardly want to use that descriptor again especially in this day and age. But still… I need a thesaurus stat.
This weirdo doctor with no sense of personal space does not appear in Hospital Massacre again and has no influence on the plot. He is just an example of the strange things this movie keeps throwing at us. On the plus side, it is a nice shot of Barbi Benton smoking.
This mask is supposed to represent a face burned by acid. I am not sure what they were going for here? They are not helped by actor Bill Errigo clearly struggling to breathe in the mask even though he is supposed to be dead.
Barbi ends up getting stuck in the elevator with all the buttons pushed. True story time. In the late seventies, my sister and I were trapped in an elevator that went wild in Danbury Hospital because some person before us had hit all the buttons, making it go wild. To make matters worse, we were blamed once we escaped the haunted elevator. Amazing what you recall from your childhood.
Hospital Massacre is not a normal movie.
Like everyone else in this Hospital Massacre, the janitor is over the top, method acting, crazy. He actually reminded me of Stanley Spadowski from UHF.
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