Terminal Choice (1985)
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This unknown Canadian film is slow-moving and doesn't have many likable characters, but I was still rather drawn into the proceedings. The futuristic hospital system makes for a unique plot device, and it's interesting to see how it'll be used next. There are some nasty bits here as helpless patients meet mean-spirited ends. The death of one of the only characters that I did like made for a very suspenseful sequence. There's also a nice scene with repeated attempts on the lead's life as he's stuck in a hospital bed with a broken foot. Said lead is Joe Spano as Dr. Frank Holt, who finds that the culprit is making it so that all the murders look like mistakes he made with his patients.
A dull subplot involves Holt and his ex-fiancée rekindling their romance. Despite the flaws, I'd say it's worth a look, especially if you're into medical horror. The stunning Ellen Barkin has an early role as the hospital's medical examiner.
Terminal Choice is set in a high tech clinic in the near future, where operations are controlled by a huge computer terminal and monitored by numerous doctors. This is certainly not the kind of hospital that you or I would want to have your tonsils removed at, because the medics gamble on patient's recovery and survival. Lylah Crane (Teri Austin) is in for a minor complaint, which Dr. Frank Holt (Joe Spano) believes he has handled with ease. Things turn nasty when an unseen someone enters the head computer terminal and poisons the youngster's drip with an unknown substance. The female chokes on her own blood and leaves Dr. Holt under extreme pressure as the top suspect in an in-house investigation. When more patients fall victim to fatal computerised glitches, Frank unravels a sadistic conspiracy of murder, deceit and treachery. But who is responsible for these unexplained killings ?
Even though Terminal Choice has been bemusingly overlooked, it does hold its corner remarkably well as an appealing mystery thriller. The first murder is extremely bloody and succeeds impressively in leaving the viewer flinching away from the screen. Sheldon Larry focuses mainly on making the most of people's underlying fear of untrustworthy medical centres. A fear that is embedded in almost anybody that has at one time or another put their life in the hands of a stranger in a white coat. That's why TC flourishes as an enjoyable and fascinating cinematic journey. Boasting equal moments of suspense and fascination, this never outstays its welcome and despite a fairly predictable false-scare climax, the majority of the runtime is eminently triumphant.
So many eighties slasher movies famously launched the careers of actors that would become home-names in later years. Brad Pitt, Bill Paxton, Tom Hanks, Sally Kirkland this list is endless! Well this time around it's Ellen Barkin looking amusingly fresh-faced and youthful. Some time later she would embark on a lengthy career that would highlight with starring roles alongside method titans Al Pacino (Sea of Love) and Mickey Rourke (Johnny Handsome). Here she plays young nurse and soon-to-be victim Mary O' Conner, and does a good enough job with a small part. The rest of the cast manage to keep things running smoothly enough without a hiccup and I especially thought that Diane Venora added flamboyance to her character.
Some people may argue that this really isn't much of a slasher movie. To be honest, they certainly have a case in point. But as I said earlier, Larry was well aware of the clichés, especially with the Tenebrae-like stalking of Ellen Barking in the shower. Many features of the time were still cashing in on the mystery-killer craze, and it looks as if Peter Lawson was keeping that in mind when he put pen to paper. When you consider the fact that movies like Candyman, Childs Play and Demon Possessed are often falsely accused of fitting in the cycle, Terminal Choice slots among the guidelines with relevant ease.
Making good use of an infamous trepidation and chucking in a few better than average performances, Terminal Choice succeeds as a solid mid-week night's diversion. As one writer on the IMDb said previously, you may never trust a hospital again. That's an atmosphere that titles like the rancid Hospital Massacre could only ever dream of creating
The crux of the stroy is that someone at a high tech clinic has set up a sick gambling system in which the hospital staff bet on which patients they expect will live and which they expect will die. One of the "gamblers" really wants to win, and has set about murdering all the patients he has placed money upon as future "deaths".
There's a lot of blood on show here. In fact, the blood flows so much that it feels at times as if you're rewatching the deliberately over-bloody Shogun Assassin. None of the people in this film bleed just a little: their bloods pumps out everywhere, and soaks an entire blouse within seconds. None of the deaths are done tastefully or in a low-key manner. Everyone that dies is killed in some sensational and gory fashion. Worse still, there's little suspense to rationalise all the blood letting. It's just nastiness for the sake of nastiness. Even the acting is lousy. After watching this movie, I felt as if I'd suffered a week or two in the same hospital. Stick with Coma (1978) if you want a good medical thriller.