As we've explored various times now in this review series, Slasher films jump at the chance to rehash similar environments in the attempt of besting their predecessors - or just simply the first to be in line for such an idea (let's think back in the late 70's and early 80's when the idea was still relatively fresh). It's a promising attribute to learn of a title that doesn't revisit the same old campground/college campus during spring or fall break/some unknown high school with a cast of rejects that get on your last nerve. Hospital Massacre, directed by "one-entry-in-the-vault-of-horror" Boaz Davidson, displays to the audience a different environment to catch our attention. The conclusion is predictable from start to finish and the ending wouldn't even a surprise a grade-schooler but with the original working title of "Be My Valentine, or Else..." let's see what this 1982 entry has to offer.
The story takes place in 1961 - young Susan and her brother are playing with a toy train set. A neighborhood boy by the name of Harold leaves a Valentine's Day card on the doorstep for Susan and scurries off into the bushes. Peering into the window, he notices Susan laughing mockingly at the card, tossing it to the floor. Volatile from rejection, Harold breaks into the home and murders Susan's brother while she remains occupied in the kitchen. Her discovery upon returning is a ghastly one - her sibling is strung up viciously by the jaw, impaled on a hat hanger. Flash forward 19 years - Susan, now a divorced parent, schedules a routine examination at a Los Angeles county hospital. Susan arrives at her appointment only to discover that Dr. Jacobs, her physician, isn't there. A certified M.D. is appointed to carry out the examination on Susan and finds discrepancies concerning her anatomy - but what are they? Meanwhile, in the bowels of the complex, a murderous fiend disposes of Dr. Jacob's body. Donning a surgical mask and wielding lethal operating room instruments, the mad man has a particular victim in his sights - Susan. Will she survive this dreadful nightmare?
As my review header indicates, this is your typical "heartbreak leads to murder" recipe; a film of standard fare with a hint of mystery. Luckily Hospital Massacre rushes right into the thick of it, wasting absolutely no time on yawn-inducing sub-plots and After School Special dopiness. If the massacring of dim-witted college frat boys and their incessant buffoonery is what you're after, look elsewhere! The majority of the story takes place within the hospital but that's another matter altogether.
Most of the staff working at the establishment look sketchy; throwing several diversions into the mix for confusion's sake. This methodical system of side-tracking the audience is far too strained in this film because it's obvious who the culprit will be. The ending is spelled out right from the beginning...a minimal amount of intelligence is required in order to pick up on this. Viewers, and even myself, may be fooled into believing that there's more to the story than what's touted, relenting themselves to the red herrings in a desperate plea for a plot twist. There are no twists in Hospital Massacre. You may be left thinking, "Surely things can't play out this predictably." Oh, but they do.
The actress who portrayed the female lead, Barbi Benton, had a widely publicized relationship with Hugh Hefner from 1969 to 1976. This would be, and still remains, her most prominent career move in terms of celebrity status. Benton never plateaued beyond occasional TV appearances and Hospital Massacre was one of the few movies that she starred in. Others may not care too much for Barbi as an actress; her filmography and current occupation (it was reported in 2002 that she's now an Interior Decorator) could easily support their claim. On the contrary, I found her acting ability well beyond average for the role given to her. Her delivery was believable in a Slasher film - what more could you ask for?
Other titles exist in the Slasher vault's repertoire that utilize a hospital setting. Certainly Hospital Massacre is not the first to dive into this region. A smattering of gore and an overly enthusiastic soundtrack play well with the environment - but throwing red herrings for the sake of doing so is like gift wrapping an item for someone else and upon them opening it, reacting in awe and amazement when the prize is retrieved. Shall the audience ignore all of these devices and the silly contraptions therein? The point I was trying to make earlier suggests that we should, indeed, go along for the ride. Hospital Massacre is a well done Slasher movie but not a film worthy to exist among my collection. For a routine flick of this caliber I'd say it's worth a look due to how rare it is. I had the pleasure of watching a VHS transfer of the film; complete with bad tracking and all!