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Elite Entertainment presents
"'Sun and Fun for the Under-30s—Hairy Holidays.' Yeah, I fancy something a little hairy."
DVD ReviewHorror Hospital is an unusual British horror film, released in 1973 and very much "of its time." The story concerns shaggy young Jason Jones (Robin Askwith), a frustrated rocker with a Mick Jagger sneer who arranges a much-needed vacation through a creepy travel agent (Dennis Price.) He meets a young woman named Judy (Vanessa Shaw) en route to the same destination, and the pair soon arrive at Brittlehouse Manor, a sanitarium operated by a Dr. Storm (Michael Gough) and Judy's Aunt Harris (Ellen Pollock). After a little free lovin', Jason and Judy attend their first meal at the "health resort" and discover that the other young visitors are catatonic zombies. When the faucet in their room spews blood-red water late that night, the pot-addled lovers begin to suspect that something is not right. When Abraham (Kurt Christian) shows up looking for his lost girlfriend, the horrifying truth begins to emerge.
This movie is another one of those frustrating "near misses" so familiar to horror fans. When Horror Hospital works, it's bloody good fun—the doctor's limousine is equipped with a decapitation device (complete with head-catcher), the mindless but supernaturally agile "Bike Boys" parody American motorcycle cops, and there's a charming, good-natured, quintessentially British tone about the whole sordid affair. Broad, scenery-chewing performances (by some fine actors) generally suit the movie well, although Askwith's strenuous cheekiness grows tiresome after a while. 1970's fashions and hairdos add to the film's entertainment value for entirely the wrong reasons, as do the red-paint "blood" and other clumsy gore effects in this early sex-and-violence flick. The film benefits from some great old Hammer-esque sets, and the physical production is competent if unspectacular.
Unfortunately, the film's requisite genre trappings too often interfere with the pleasures of a stay at Horror Hospital—director/co-writer Anthony Balch's genuinely creative ideas are too often interrupted by his hackneyed story, another in the long line of stranded-couple melodramas parodied by Richard O'Brien in The Rocky Horror Show. Horror Hospital plods along in a thoroughly conventional fashion spiced up by a few see-it-to-believe-it moments—it delivers the cheesy "old dark sanitarium" goods, but its occasional flashes of humor and style make its general mediocrity all the more disappointing.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Elite Entertainment presents Horror Hospital in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image is slightly soft due to the age of the film, but Elite has come up with an excellent source print, very clean with just a few minor flecks and reel-change markers. Color is rich and bright and detail is quite good, even in darker scenes. This film has almost certainly never looked better, even in its original theatrical run, and it's great to see an obscure genre film like this given such a fine (though non-anamorphic) transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Horror Hospital features a Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic soundtrack, decoded to play through the center speaker in ProLogic systems. The digital transfer is clean with remarkably little hiss, but the soundtrack hasn't aged well. Significant distortion arises in music and elsewhere, and dialogue clarity and volume varies—a few scenes that were recorded "live" are much more difficult to understand than the obviously "looped" scenes that make up most of the film. The soundtrack features a few creatively off-the-wall music cues, and Elite's DVD rendition is solid enough, but this is generally a flat and occasionally irritating audio experience.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Elite Entertainment provides a few standard supplements for Horror Hospital. Menu designs are static but snazzy, adorned with bright-red blood, and picture menus link to the disc's generous 21 chapter stops.
The disc's only "extra" is the theatrical trailer from the film's double-feature pairing with The Corpse Grinders, but it's a wonderful addition that raises this rating significantly. Likely due to trailer content restrictions, Horror Hospital is presented with almost NO footage from the film, opting instead for a series of text messages daring audience members to "See It With Someone You Hate!" and utilizing an extremely brief shot from the film in which no cast members are recognizable. This is old-fashioned horror exploitation marketing at its best, and worth repeat viewing even after you've tired of the film itself.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsHorror Hospital is an interesting "mod" horror movie, though its best ideas are buried in its formulaic mad-doctor plot. Elite Entertainment gives the film a solid DVD release with great image quality and a terrific trailer, and if the straightforward title appeals, you'll probably find this early gore disc worthwhile.
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