Hospital Massacre
directed by Boaz Davidson
(MGM/UA, 1982)

Hospital Massacre is actually a pretty decent little horror movie, but we'll get to that. First, we have to talk about the film's star, Barbi Benton. Let's face it -- what with the crazy disco look and the remnants of unwashed hippie fashion floating around, there just weren't that many good-looking women around in the 1970s and very early '80s. Benton was one of the exceptions -- even I knew that, dumb, cootie-fearing little kid that I was at the time. Nobody wore those short denim shorts like Barbi did during her years on Hee Haw, and Mr. Roarke didn't have to tell everyone else to smile whenever Barbi Benton emerged from "da plane" for a guest appearance on Fantasy Island. It's not hard to see why she was such a favorite of Playboy's Hugh Hefner. The girl clearly had it going on, and she wasn't a bad actress, either. If I had been making a horror film back then, Barbi would definitely have been on my short list.

Here, she plays Susan Jeremy, a woman who goes to the hospital to pick up her test results and finds herself in some kind of Twilight Zone nightmare. First, her doctor is a complete no-show; then, after she sweet-talks an intern into getting her test results, he escorts her to another doctor who subjects her to what looks to be a pretty humiliating physical exam of his own (although it's hard to blame the guy for wanting to get his hands all over a naked Barbi Benton); before she knows what's happening, she's confined to a bed in some kind of general ward full of loonies wondering what kind of bad news the medical staff is keeping to themselves. Long before she actually witnesses her first murder, though, she's figured out that she is perfectly healthy and that some nutcase is responsible for all of these medical shenanigans. That doesn't help her all that much, though, when she's strapped down to a gurney and the killer comes calling.

We, the audience, know what is going on here, although we don't necessarily know which character happens to be the killer. Back when she was young, Susan had a little admirer who left her a valentine at the door, then watched through the window as she and a boy I presume to be her brother had a good laugh about his ickiness and obvious stupidity -- it would be the last laugh the boy would ever have. Now, you would think having a violent murder on your record would preclude you from getting into medical school, but that's apparently not the case. I'm a little ashamed to admit that the killer's identity came as a surprise to me, though. Maybe I was too busy looking at Barbi's "assets" because there is at least one huge clue that all but identifies the guy early on.

Summing things up, it's clear that Hospital Massacre (also known as X-Ray, Ward 13 and Be My Valentine ... or Else) has a pretty good litany of things going for it: a reasonably tight story, a decent amount of blood and guts, and a naked Barbi Benton. If that's not enough to make you want to watch this film, you'd better just stick to your sensitive dramas like The Bridges of Madison County.

review by
Daniel Jolley

20 November 2010

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