Visiting Hours is a rather uninspiring Canadian-filmed slasher flick, rushed out to capitalize on the success of movies like Halloween, that would have been completely forgotten if not for two coincidental achievements: Being the first "Video Nasty" to be shown on British television, and featuring now-pop-culture-icon William Shatner in a minor supporting role.
Disaster Film star Lee Grant plays outspoken news anchor Deborah Ballin, whose unabashed defense of abused women motivates psychopathic loner and chapter He-Men Woman Hater's Club member Michael Ironside to deliver a little home-invasion rebuttal to her argument. After killing the maid (before she could tidy up, no less) and attacking Ballin while wearing her jewelry before fleeing the scene, the distraught news anchor spends the rest of the film waiting in the hospital while Ironside returns for multiple visits (get the title now?), during which he manages to kill everyone except the focus of his feminine hatred.
The film's one-note plotline doesn't have much to play with except this exceedingly drawn out game of Cat & Mouse, even with the mildly distracting subplot of a dedicated single mother and nurse whose dedication pulls her into this deadly feud. Most of the time waiting is filled with what seems like hundreds of cliche false scares (although no cat scares, thankfully), uninteresting conversations, and a rather delightful display of closet designs across the Canadian class spectrum. The tedious pace is delayed even further by Ironside's habit of killing every person he bumps into on his way to the news anchor's hospital bed. A serial killer with at least a passable amount of self-control would have been cleaning her blood off of his shoes before the one-hour mark.
Those settling down to view this slasher in the hopes of some campy Shatner fun will be quickly disappointed: Shatner's role as Grant's husband is brief and un-comically straight forward. But if you came for William Shatner, be sure to stick around for Michael Ironside. Ironside was the typical go-to guy for low budget bad guy roles in the day, and Visiting Hours acts as a perfect showcase for his villainous acting. With a glare that would wilt petunias at fifty paces, Ironside stalks through the film shooting hateful glares that you could feel across a crowded room. His trademark creepy performance may not exactly save the film, but it does make it somewhat more tolerable.
The film does have a few inspired moments, mostly surrounding Ironside's lady killer Colt Hawker. There's one scene in particular, in which he slices the wrong air tube, but decides to stick around and savor the moment anyway, sitting quietly on the edge of the bed and taking pictures of an elderly woman in her final death throes. The film tries to explain his passionate hatred of women with some domestic violence flashbacks, but they end up feeling like simple explanations that take away from the mysteriousness of a man who can drive a Zambonee-sized floor sweeper with soul-cringing malice. And if you ever wanted to watch Michael Ironside in a latex muscle shirt sexually abusing an eighties hair-band refugee, here's your chance.
Visiting Hours isn't exactly a bad film, but rather just a passable, wholly uninspiring film that has little to offer beyond drawn out suspense and the occasional switchblade to the abdomen, neither of which entertain nearly as much as they should.