There something inherently creepy about hospitals, so it’s no surprise that several horror films have adopted them as their location. Although most opt for abandoned buildings, some movies utilize functioning hospitals. Scream! Factory has unleashed 1988’s Bad Dreams and 1982’s Visiting Hours as a hospital horror double feature. The two-pack was released on DVD by Shout Factory back in 2011, but now the films are available in high-definition on Blu-ray with some new extras.
Bad Dreams was released a year after A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors wowed horror fans. Not only do the two films share an actor – Jennifer Rubin, who played Taryn in Dream Warriors, takes the lead in Bad Dreams – but their plots are remarkably similar. Coincidence or not, Bad Dreams pales in comparison. It was an obvious attempt to cash in on the franchise boom, and while it failed to launch a series, it’s an entertaining view. The picture marked the directorial debut of Andrew Fleming (The Craft), who co-wrote the script with Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard).
Cynthia (Rubin) is the lone survivor of a Jonestown-like cult that committed mass suicide by dousing themselves in gasoline and lighting a match. After awakening from a coma after more than 13 years with no memory of the explosion, Cynthia is sent to a local mental hospital under the care of psychiatrist Alex Karmen (Bruce Abbott, Re-Animator). In an effort to recover her memory, she joins a host of colorful patients in the doctor’s group clinic. Her memory slowly returns in the form of frightening visions featuring Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch, Halloween remake), the convent’s menacing leader. Cynthia believes Harris is still after her and that he is responsible for the deaths of the patients, who keep turning up dead from apparent suicide.
Visiting Hours is a bit more original (albeit slightly less fun) than Bad Dreams, but it does share a good deal in common with another beloved slasher sequel: Halloween II. Visiting Hours’ first act features a killer on the loose in an understaffed hospital, chasing after a girl who he put in the hospital in the first place. The story diverges from there, but it’s hard not to be reminded of Michael Myers. Although often lumped in with the slasher movement, Visiting Hours has a noticeably more serious – melodramatic, even – tone. For better or worse, the film injects the slasher tropes with a sinister, serial killer edge.
Visiting Hours is directed by Jean-Claude Lord from a script by Brian Taggert (Poltergeist III). Lee Grant stars as Deborah Ballin (Damien: Omen II), a journalist known for her profound stance against violence. In a twist on the classic shower gag, an early scene finds Deborah going to use the shower only to have a deranged man, Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside, Total Recall), pop out from inside the curtain with a knife. Deborah survives the brutal attack, which only angers Hawker more. He continues to hunt for Deborah, while her boss (William Shatner, Star Trek) and nurse (Linda Purl, The Office) attempt to keep her safe.
Most of the Blu-rays special features are ported over from the previous DVD double feature. Bad Dreams includes a commentary with Fleming, interviews with Rubin, Abbott and Dean Cameron, behind the scenes footage, a special effects featurette, a vintage promo, the original ending, a trailer and a gallery. Visiting Hours was previously pretty bare, but Taggert, actress Lenore Zann and executive producer Pierre David participated in new interviews this time around to accompany the radio and TV spots. Taggert’s open, career-spanning chat particularly stands out.
I’m not complaining, but I’m not entirely sure why the Bad Dreams and Visiting Hours are packaged together. I understand that both films take place in hospitals and that they were previously released together on DVD, but Scream Factory has given equally-obscure titles standalone releases in the past, not to mention the fact that this has some new extras. In any event, that decision ultimately benefits the consumer, as fans can take home two interesting ’80s flicks for the price of one.