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The F*cking Black Sheep: Be My Valentine, Or Else aka X-Ray (1981)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

BE MY VALENTINE, OR ELSE (AKA X-RAY AKA HOSPITAL MASSACRE - 1981)

DIRECTED BY BOAZ DAVIDSON

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all…we’re headed to the hospital!

Seriously, what better place besides a dive-bar to nurse your broken heart? Oh what, you’re head over heels in love? Here’s an amyl shot for your overly-swollen heart. The hospital has every affliction covered! Real shit though, how many of you have ever even heard of, much less seen, Boaz Davidson’s 1981 hospital-set-Valentine’s-Day slasher flick? Yeah well, we don’t blame you if not. First off, the flick was victimized by tentative release shifts and alternative titles, making damn near impossible for anyone to know much about the flick. Also known as HOSPITAL MASSACRE, and even more obscurely (but most imaginatively), BE MY VALENTINE, OR ELSE – the flick was inexplicably released in Mexico in 1981, a full six months before the flick was released in the U.S. in April of 1982. Worse yet, the UK version was so heavily excised by the BBFC in order to lock an X-rating, it truncated all the best parts down to a weak 77 minute version. It wouldn’t be until 1983 that the raw, uncut dope was pushed to the masses by MGM/UA Home Video under the title HOSPITAL MASSACRE. Point is, this must not only be one of the most unknown and therefore underrated hospital horror joints, it’s also the most obscure Valentine’s Day horror flick to date. All this and more when we officially cast BE MY VALENTINE, OR ELSE in the light of a F*cking Black Sheep!

Scripted by Marc Behm (THE RETURN OF DR. MABUSE, CHARADE) from a story conceived by Boaz, X-RAY opens with an effectively vengeful Valentine’s Day set up. In 1961, a young suitor named Harold delivers a Valentine card to his female crush, Susan. When Susan finds out who sent the card, she and her friend David laugh hysterically before crumpling up the card and tossing it aside. Witnessing from the outside window, Harold immediately lashes out. He breaks into the house and hangs David from a coat-rack – a 10 year old mind you – with Susan finds his fresh corpse. Cut to Valentine’s Day 1981, as Susan (Barbi Benton) has become a professional powerhouse. Her new job requires a medical physical in order to reap benefits of her new insurance policy, and is sent to a hospital in L.A. for a routine checkup. While admitted, it becomes clear that a murderous maniac decked in O.R. scrubs is killing anyone in the way of him and Susan. Shortly after, it becomes even clearer that Doctor Harry (Chip Lucia) is in fact jilted Harold from 20 years ago, and has been orchestrating the entire medical visit in order to exact bloody vengeance on the girl who rejected his Valentine’s advances two decades prior. More precisely, he wants her heart! Dude’s surgical!

One of the first things about X-RAY that deserves mention is how weird and unsettling the atmosphere is. No shite, the film was shot in an actual abandoned hospital, and the veracity of an authentic, lived-in space left for dead only adds to the credibility of the picture. The moldering hallways, dusty shafts of light, long dark corridors, medical slabs, hospital beds, freaky medical equipment, etc. all feel genuine, not as if they’re mere props. This was an inspired choice by Davidson, who actually replaced the original director at the last minute when said director failed to infuse proper funding into the film. Perhaps it was out of last second necessity to shoot in a truly abandoned hospital, but it helps the picture tremendously no matter how it went down.

The next thing that strikes one about X-RAY is how absurdly humorous it is. Remember, Susan is at the hospital for a routine physical, but as the night wears on, it become nearly impossible for her to escape the place. Her test results get mixed up more than once, she gets the constant runaround, sent from room to room, doctor to doctor, retested, stripped nude and defiled, all of which happens as a psycho killer is hot on her heels. It gets to the point that you start to wonder if Harry’s mode of revenge involves murdering Susan, or literally driving her insane. By the end of the film Susan is driven to near clinical madness, simply due to the fact she does not belong there and that nobody will believe her. It’s a fascinating dynamic that was milked for awhile, but ultimately dropped in favor of Harry trying to sedate Susan with a needle injection before savagely slaughtering her on the surgery slab. Still, the nightmarish absurdism is what sets X-RAY’S sense of humor apart from many slasher flicks of its ilk, including the other February 14th-themed horror joint released the same year, MY BLOODY VALENTINE.

And not for nothing, but the year is key. 1981 was a time when slasher flicks were at their most graphically unflinching and their carnage was at its most uncompromising. Therefore, X-RAY has some of the nastiest and gnarliest death scenes of the time, ones exacted with assorted medical weaponry and spurting with exorbitant gore. Care to hear more…

After young David is hung up on coat-rack (the out-of-focus background shot of his corpse over Susan’s shoulder is brilliant), Harry graduates to more violent modes of vitiation. His next kill comes courtesy of a long incising blade that he abruptly gouges into an unsuspecting nurse’s body until streaks of blood plash in his face. The next dude to bite it, in what must have inspired Todd Farmer when we wrote JASON X, Harry grabs a janitor and crams his head into a smoldering sink full of not liquid nitrogen, but rather hydrochloric acid, rendering his face a wet blistered puss-bag as he lay dying. After stabbing another orderly with the same knife as before, Harry turns to strangulation before upping the artillery. When Susan’s husband Jack (John Van Ness) shows up, Harry sets his sights on him, lured him into an empty operating room, and uses the blade-saw to brutally decapitate Jack on the spot. Ever the romantic, Harry then stuffs Jack’s head into a blood-red Valentine’s box and places bedside next to Susan. When Susan awakes from sedation, she is shocked to find her hubby’s lopped off head awaiting her. Not to spoil all of the particulars, but Harry also uses a hatchet, a poisoned hypodermic needle, and a large scalpel through the back of the neck (my favorite) en route to tallying an impressive kill count of nine. That’s one kill in less than every ten minutes!

Last but not least, I think there’s one other sequence in X-RAY that merits discussion. When it comes to the point of the film when we know Harry is the murderous doctor (Harry is the same name as the killer in MY BLOODY VALENTINE, mind you), a fact Susan isn’t yet privy of, there comes a contextualized sequence that plays to this very bit of crucial information. Listen. As Susan is asked to disrobe for further testing, we perceive the most innocuous medical exam practices as extremely sinister and highly suspenseful. With murder as a motive, when Harry puts his hands on Susan’s body to check her vitals, rub her knees for reflexes, use the stethoscope to touch her heart, and last, two hands around her neck to check her pulse…what would normally seem like a practice of protection becomes the opposite. It’s a fascinating dynamic flipped by the sheer context of what we know hospitals to be and what he know awaits Susan’s fate. Granted, the sequence could have been executed a little better, but the idea is a really cool and creepy one.

Look, BE MY VALENTINE, OR ELSE (aka X-RAY, aka HOSPITAL MASSACRE) is no doubt the least known Valentine’s Day horror flick ever made, and doubles a decent dose of harrowing hospital horror as well. The fact that seemingly nobody has heard about the film, much less seen it, despite Shout Factory releasing it on Blu-ray in 2013 (as a double feature with SCHIZOID), tells you everything you need to know about what a forgotten about F*cking Black Sheep the film remains. Do wise and celebrate Valentine’s Day with a HOSPITAL MASSACRE!

STREAM X-RAY HERE

GET X-RAY ON BLU-RAY HERE

Source: AITH

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