Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) is a high profile and crusading television journalist who often gets into hot water with her forthright views, especially now as she confronts a lawyer who managed to get a battered wife convicted of attempted murder when she snapped and shot her abusive husband. Deborah is so probing in her questioning that her producer, Gary Baylor (William Shatner) tells her that they cannot air her segment because of the libel laws, and she returns home in a very bad mood. However, once she gets there she finds that her exposure has attracted the wrong kind of attention...
Visiting Hours was one of those Canadian slasher movies, except here everyone evidently thought they had an important point to make, and that was about the place of violence in society and whether it can ever be justified. Something best left to the courts if serious contemplation was the order of the day, but the plotline from scriptwriter Brian Taggert was entirely designed to lead up to a situation where pacifist Deborah was forced into defending herself in as brutal a manner as she could manage. Not a new idea, not for slasher movies and nor for thrillers for that matter, but the self-righteous tone here was hard to take.
It might have been forgivable to some extent if this had been suspenseful, but director Jean-Claude Lord insisted on dragging the tension out way past any potential excitement and well into the realms of boredom. Which was an achievement in itself considering the actor playing the psychopath here was Michael Ironside, fresh from his memorable turn in Scanners where he had exploded a man's head with his mind. Nothing so outrageous here, alas, as he mainly wandered about with a flick knife - oh how he wandered about, making this look as if we were following the villain's regular walking exercise regime rather than fearing for his victims.
Ironside was already ideal for this kind of role with his solid build and permanent scowl, and if there was any reason for seeing this it was his performance, but then, you could see him do this type of thing in other, better productions as well. As for William Shatner fans, they might have been attracted by his second billing and envisaged him facing off against Ironside, yet no such luck as not only did they not share a scene, but The Shat was a useless character who did nothing of any note, indeed you could have excised him from the plot and there would have been no difference, although it would have shaved off some yawn-inducing minutes from the running time.
There was another main character, as Grant ended up being something of a support in her own movie, relegated to lying in the hospital for most of this, where she meets nurse Sheila Munroe (Linda Purl). Sheila becomes targeted by the psycho when she witnesses him bump off two victims, and a horror movie set in a hospital didn't sound like too bad a proposition, except that even Halloween II made more of it than this, which was too easily distracted, allowing the claustrophobia of being trapped as much by the medical system as the killer to slacken significantly. Whatever social comment they were trying to get across was wiped out not only by the scenes of Ironside going about his dubious business, spying on the innocent and beating up women, but by the fact that, well, how seriously would you take a lesson in morals from something like this? Ironside's commitment to being the baddest bad guy he could be aside, Visiting Hours wasn't up to much. Music by Jonathan Goldsmith.