Search this blog and The Mike's favorite blogs!

August 22, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #190 - X-Ray

Whenever I think I have the slasher genre figured out, something like X-Ray comes along and reminds me what I reluctantly love about these little pieces of horror trash. It's a formula that was abused and recycled so much in the first half of the 1980s, and yet once in a while the pieces just come together right and something ridiculous just becomes that perfect diversion.  This one, originally titled Hospital Massacre, fits that description perfectly.
Playing off several of the slasher's staples - childhood trauma that sets up adult madness, focusing the events around a holiday or major event, characters who don't believe anything's wrong and die for their ignorance, etc. - X-Ray tells the story of a woman named Susan who goes to the hospital for a check up and becomes the target of a madman in surgical scrubs who is killing anyone who might let her leave the hospital.  It's a silly premise, even by slasher standards, but it really sets up some entertaining carnage.
 Like any good slasher film, we learn there's a killer long before the lead character does, which allows the film to mix splatter and plot development early on. The opening sequence, set around young Susan (played by little Elizabeth Hoy, who also starred in the sleazy MMOTW pick Bloody Birthday) and an angry/murderous classmate, lays some pretty big clues out regarding what will happen next and ends with one of the most unique deaths from the slasher movement. And, like most flashbacks to childhood that open slasher films of the early '80s (there are more of them than you think), it's forgotten for most of the film once time jumps forward.
The adult version of Susan is played by former Playboy Playmate and Hee Haw co-star Barbi Benton, who is a surprisingly adept final girl. I'm not saying Benton should win Oscars or even some of those less prestigious film festival awards for her performance, but the weight of the film is on her and she manages to look the part of a terrified victim throughout. She is given a character who makes some pretty bad decisions and is allowed to do some pretty stupid things - at one point she reveals her hiding place by obviously knocking a file off of a file cabinet and at another moment she frantically struggles with a door that reads "Please Open Slowly"- but this is a slasher film and thus such things are needed to push the plot forward. Nitpickers might find fault with the performance and the film's logic, but I'm not sure why such nitpickers would hunt down a film like X-Ray in the first place.
Keeping up with slasher standards also requires some blood splatter, and director Boaz Davidson (who would go on to become a pretty successful producer on films like The Expendables series, Drive Angry and The Iceman) doesn't disappoint. The film isn't a wall-to-wall bloodbath like some of its contemporaries, but it does have some well-timed kills and plenty of splatter. There are also a few too-graphic-for-The-Mike scenes involving needles - my personal cinematic kryptonite - including one during Susan's initial examination that almost made me throw up. If you're afraid of needles like I am, this film will give you fits.
X-Ray is far from being a great horror movie, but it's such a frantic and entertaining little film that I can't help but smile at it. Everyone is a potential victim - especially because every character seems to have no real personality - and the film manages to keep providing fresh ways to dispose of them while Benton runs through this hospital in fear. The hospital setting made me think a lot about Halloween II, and X-Ray's uptempo pace and over-the-top performances make it a cheesier alternative to that fine slasher sequel. Davidson knows how to provide pulpy entertainment to a viewer who just wants to have fun, and though X-Ray doesn't reach the ludicrous heights of something like Pieces it still manages to be a ridiculously fun slasher movie.

No comments: