'X-Ray' a.k.a 'Hospital Massacre' - While receiving a routine check-up, a beautiful woman is stalked by a maniac out to avenge a childhood Valentine's Day humiliation. Starring Barbi Benton, Charles Lucia, and Jon Van Ness.
'Schizoid' - Julie writes an advice column for the newspaper. Around the time she begins to get threatening notes, while women in her therapy group start getting stabbed by some unidentfied attacker. Soon after, Julie is assured by her therapist, ex-husband, friends and the police that there is no connection between these attacks
In 'X-Ray,' Israeli filmmaker Boaz Davidson, best known as the director of cult comedy classics 'Charlie and a Half' and 'Lemon Popsicle,' turns a routine "slasher" formula into an unconventional thriller that manages to entertain and surprise with a few nerve-racking moments. Paving the way for 90-minutes of terror inside a mostly vacant hospital, making the long, undecorated hallways all the creepier, is a freakishly disturbing scene where Barbi Benton is administered the world's most unsettling check-up. The former Playboy model and singer is asked to undress for a doctor (a perversely spooky John Warner Williams), who then proceeds ungloved with an unnerving full-body exam.
Having such a scene seems somewhat laughable and perhaps even expected in a low-budget horror flick — an opportunity to see Miss Benton in the nude — but Davidson goes further than simply giving male viewers something to fantasize about. He turns the whole experience into a very awkward and spine-chilling moment that feels genuinely traumatic. The camera slowly follows the doctor's hands as he gently squeezes on Benton's legs, moving up her things, abdomen and chest, all the while Benton looks on with petrified shock. The rest of the night is spent with our terrified heroine not only trying to figure out why she's forced to remain in the hospital but also why a crazed killer in a surgeon's uniform is chasing after her. And Davidson maintains that same level of suspense seen in the examination scene throughout with simple but effective camerawork.
Also known as 'Hospital Massacre' and 'Be My Valentine, or Else...,' the script from Marc Behm ('Charade'), based on a story by Davidson, follows the standard "slasher" blueprint with a holiday-themed tale of revenge that's years in the making, but sadly, the motive of childhood resentment over a denied Valentine's Day present is really pretty lame. Thankfully, 'X-Ray' redeems itself be setting the killer's plan of bloody vengeance inside a hospital with some of the most convoluted but cleverly manufactured plot points, leading to a genuinely surprising reveal at the end. Best of all, the story comes with a subtle, discerning postmodern feel, giving the whole mystery a light comical energy that also entertains with various thrills and a few spine-chillers. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
There really isn't much in 'Schizoid' worth recommending. The mostly forgotten 1980 thriller is a bit of a chore in terms of horror movies. Writer and director David Paulsen starts with a capable premise about a therapy group with anxiety issues actually followed and terrorized by an unknown assailant, but he fails to take advantage of such a fun and promising twist. There's nary a moment of suspense or creativity during the murder scenes, yet Paulsen lingers on the nudity with a voyeuristic appetite. Stylistically, he clearly takes notes from the Italian giallo playbook and mixes it with standard "slasher" clichés, which would, again, make for a fun movie, but it's not. If only looks could kill.
If there's at least one reason to watch the movie, then it's for seeing Klaus Kinski and Christopher Lloyd appearing together on screen. Kinski stars as the group's therapist who carries serious baggage of his own. As a recent widower, he's a gloomy, sulking mess whose daughter (Donna Wilkes) is even stranger with some very troubling psychological behavior, like undressing in front of her father. Lloyd is an oddball maintenance man and a patient of the doctor's. In group, he goes off on a tirade about walking the streets alone at night because the feeling of loneliness and being unloved is sometimes overwhelming. It's also pretty clear he has a crush on Julie (Marianna Hill), but she's enjoying private sessions with the shrink at the moment.
With that little love triangle established, you'd think it enough for an entertaining whodunit murder mystery. Has the doctor finally snapped after years of listening to the pathetic lives of others, or has Lloyd's poor Gilbert decided to do something with his time during his nightly walks alone? Better yet, has the doctor's daughter gone completely bonkers, still suffering from her mother's death and expressing a violent resent towards Julie? Sadly, Paulsen elects to needlessly complicate matters by having Julie, who works as an advice columnist, receive threatening anonymous letters at the same time as the murders while also dealing with a still angry ex-husband (Craig Wasson) who wants her back. Guessing the killer is admittedly fun, yet the final reveal is somewhat unsurprising because it also feels very formulaic and ultimately dull. (Movie Rating: 2/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'X-Ray' and 'Schizoid' to Blu-ray as a double-feature two-disc combo pack under the distributor's Scream Factory line. The Region Free, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite case with a second DVD-9 disc on the opposing panel. At startup, the disc goes to an animated screen where viewers can choose between the two movies and select menu options while music plays in the background.
'X-ray' makes its way to Blu-ray with a strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1) that looks and feels every bit like an 80s slasher. This means, the transfer is not the sharpest around, but this is only due the limitations of the source and the original photography. However, in spite of this, the video is nicely detailed with fine, resolute lines in the furniture and costumes. A thin layer of natural grain is consistently present, giving the presentation an appreciable cinematic quality. Primaries are bold and cleanly rendered while secondary pastel hues fill the screen with warmth. Contrast is well-balanced and stable with brilliant whites, and black levels are generally satisfying with one or two notable moments of weakness. Overall, the high-def presentation is far from demo-worthy, but it looks great nevertheless. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Another AVC-encoded transfer (1.78:1) that hasn't aged well, but at least it's consistent and stable, with fairly strong definition and resolution. Awash with a thin layer of grain, the video is very film-like, which is greatly appreciated, but the original photography doesn't yield the best results with a good chunk of the runtime looking pretty soft throughout. Nevertheless, fine object and textural details are quite pleasing with several revealing moments in close-up. Contrast and brightness are well-balanced, but blacks fall on the weaker side while whites show a tad of noise. Colors are the most appealing with clean, vibrant primaries and accurate skin tones. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Like the video, the DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is a product of its time and production, meaning it sounds good for the most part but there's nothing particularly special about it either. Although the dialogue reproduction is excellent and delivered with great accuracy in the center, imaging feels pretty narrow and limited. Even the music fails to create a good sense of presence or open the soundfield in any dramatic way. On the whole, dynamic range is also fairly limited, producing some mild noise in the higher frequencies, and acoustics are generally hollow and lifeless. The same goes for bass, which seems anemic and listless. The lossless mix gets the job done, but it's also an average presentation. (Audio Rating: 3/5)
The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack is in the same boat as the video, doing fine as it is but doesn't make much of an impression overall. On occasion, the music broadens the soundfield a bit, creating a slightly warmer and more welcoming image with good, intelligible dialogue in the center, yet the entire presentation feels very narrow and somewhat empty. It doesn't help that the mid-range is also generally flat and uniform, exhibiting very little extension in the upper frequencies. The same goes for the weak and listless low-end, adding to the track's rather lifeless capability. This might have something to do the limitations of the source or the original sound design, but as it stands, the lossless mix is pretty bland and lackluster. (Audio Rating: 2.5/5)
Under the Scream Factory line, Shout! brings a pair of long forgotten and borderline bad horror thrillers from the heyday of the "slasher" era, except one is better than the other. With a subtle comedic undertone, Boaz Davidson offers an entertaining tale set inside a creepy hospital while David Paulsen borrows from the giallo playbook but fails to do anything special with it. Both movies arrive on Blu-ray with strong picture quality and decently good audio. With a pair of average supplements, the overall package will likely only draw attention from "slasher" fans.