At the very end of New Year's Evil, the end credits promise that "Be My Valentine... OR ELSE!" will be coming soon from Cannon Films. When I first noticed it I was delighted by this little James Bond-esque promise of another film, but also saddened that it seemed they never actually made it, because there's no way a film with that ridiculous of a moniker would go unheralded. However, after a little digging, I discovered the title was changed to X-Ray and also Hospital Massacre, depending on where/how the film was released. And even though I was sure I never even heard of the movie, further digging in my own VHS collection on an unrelated mission revealed that at some point in high school I apparently rented the film (under the Hospital Massacre title) and made a copy for myself, but never watched it for whatever reason. Movie collecting is a sickness, folks.
I have to assume that they changed the title to avoid being lumped in with My Bloody Valentine, which had already been released and was not one of the more successful slasher entries of its day (evidence #37571 for the "box office ultimately doesn't matter" files). But also, the holiday doesn't really factor into things all that much - beyond some decor here and there in the hospital where 90% of the film takes place, the only real bit of Valentine connection comes in its flashback opening sequence, where young friends Susan and Dave are hanging out when a third kid, Harold, stops by with a Valentine for Susan (of note for slasher fans - Susan and Harold are played by two of the three young murderers from the immor(t)al Bloody Birthday). The two laugh at Harold's gesture of love, so in typical MRA fashion he assumes that Dave's presence is the reason she doesn't return his affection, and thus does what anyone would: he breaks in while Susan is in another room and impales the kid on a coat hook.
It's unclear if Harold got put away for his crime (or if Susan even knows if he did it), but at any rate we then cut to the present day, where the blonde Susan has become the brunette Barbi Benton (and Dave is still dead, even though the credits list him as "Young" Dave, insinuating there would be an older version) and is visiting the hospital to check on some test results. We are told that this is the same hospital where a patient ran amok, but after watching the movie a few times over the years I still have no idea what this has to do with anything, since it's not a mental hospital (even though some people in it are very weird) so the suggestion that it was Harold makes no sense. Anyway, this kicks off an endless series of scenes where Susan tries to get her test results or a doctor tells her she needs further examination. while a masked doctor (well, half-masked; his eyes are plainly visible) murders a number of hospital staffers who are involved in some way with these elusive test results.
The reason for this is because she's perfectly fine but he wants to keep her in the hospital, so he swaps X-Rays (hey, that's the title!) and charts around to make sure she sticks around so that they can run more tests and then make her wait for the results of those tests. Eventually she realizes something is not right and discovers what we've known the entire time: the killer is a now grown up Harold. Why he waited all this time to get his revenge - or why he had to do it at the hospital in the first place - is beyond me, but it's remarkable how much effort he puts into doing that only to (spoiler) botch the job, anyway. In fact, a couple of his victims are just people who saw him going about his murderous plan and had to be killed for being witnesses, which again makes me wonder why he didn't just follow her home where he'd only have to worry about her boyfriend. Speaking of that guy, he's one of the best Final Girl boyfriends in slasher history, as he spends hours waiting for her in the parking lot before finally going inside to see what's up, and is lured to his doom by creepy voices and a corpse in a wheelchair - it's amazing he survived this long when he has zero awareness or little voices in his head to tell him that something is off about a given situation.
My favorite thing about the movie (besides the decent amount of blood splatter for its day, when the MPAA was getting pretty ridiculous) is how they both make zero effort to conceal the killer's identity (the character, the only doctor who is nice to her, even goes by "Harry") but also break the laws of time and space to try to get you thinking it must be someone else. During one of the test-swapping scenes, our masked killer makes the change then runs out of the room, and seconds later Harry walks in (no mask, no blood on his clothes from the murder he just committed) and grabs the test, concerned at its results as if he wasn't the one who just put them there. Later, Harry and Susan are looking for a file in an office when the killer shows up, forcing them to hide until he leaves. Now, the earlier example can be chalked up to a split personality or something, but how the hell did he manage to be both cat and mouse in the same scene? It's almost as if they were intentionally trying to make the audience think it was Harry so that they could pull a shock reveal that it was her boyfriend, or her ex-husband, or literally anyone else in the movie, but forgot to do that. It's more of a surprise when Jason Voorhees is unmasked in Final Chapter, honestly.
But again, this delights me to no end. As the film is from Golan and Globus (né Cannon Films), I almost expect some of it to be an affront to coherency, and even though it's not intentional you can almost watch it as a parody of these things. It's like "So what if the killer is in two places at once? You're not being cheated out of kill scenes or anything else exploitative, and don't try to tell us for one second you came to a movie called "Hospital Massacre" hoping for a Sherlock Holmes-level mystery!" Speaking of exploitation, former Playboy model Ms. Benton does indeed bare all for the flimsiest reason possible, in a scene made sleazier by the red herring doctor leering at her the entire time. Extraneous beyond belief, but it does make the film one of the very few slashers where the only breasts you see belong to the Final Girl, a bit of genre deconstruction that I absolutely assure you no one was intending.
I'll give it this much legit credit: it's more successful than Valentine on making a key plot point believable. The young Harold and the older "Harry" could indeed be the same person after twenty years, whereas there is no way in hell the gangly kid in the opening sequence of Valentine grew up to be David Boreanaz (why two of the few films to use the plot device of our heroine not recognizing a childhood friend are both Valentine's Day related, I have no idea). Also, the film is just chock-full of bizarre side characters, like the trio of old ladies that Susan shares a room with and a "corpse" that turns out to be a guy who fell asleep (on an elevator!) with ketchup all over his shirt. Director Boaz Davidson even makes a quick cameo as a weirdo doctor, and there are always other memorable "faces" walking around, helping populate the locale in a way that many hospital-set horror films often fail to do (Halloween II being one of the worst offenders). I also like that our characters are all adults, a rarity for the time period as it was always college-aged kids acting as stupid as the grown-ass men and women do here.
Bonus: it's got a crazy score by Arlon Ober, another Bloody Birthday vet (he also composed Eating Raoul!). Imagine Jerry Goldsmith and his Omen choir getting drunk and deciding to rip off the Friday the 13th themes and you'll get have a good idea of what it sounds like, with the choir singing "He sees her!" (or "Little Caesar"?) over and over - it's a shame it's not available on CD. And that's the thing about this movie; it's got all the right ingredients for what makes a successful body count flick, but the impossibly dumb script (by Davidson and Marc Behm) makes it nearly impossible to defend. Then again, it's those "Wait, WHAT?" moments that are a big part of why I kinda love it; in fact even though I'm not big on rewatching movies anymore I've watched it almost every year since Scream Factory brought it into my life in 2013, and I curse myself for not watching that VHS copy - that's 15 years I could have been in the know! But that's fine, since it's rather obscure I think of it more of a dirty secret for hardcore slasher fans; I would never recommend it to someone looking for a legitimately great horror film, but if you're the type of person who knows that The Prowler > The Burning then I insist you give it a look, especially for the holiday. And don't worry, it won't make you afraid of hospitals, I assure you.