Terminal Choice (1985) Poster

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Criminally underrated...
ep.com31 March 2002
A pity, nobody seems to know this little thriller-masterpiece. Where bigger budgeted movies fail, "Terminal Choice" delivers lots of thrills, shocks and bloody violence. A little seen gem, that deserves being searched for in your local video shop. That anonymous guy beneath is quite right, when he says, you'll never trust hospitals again... it IS that effective ! Good ending,too, not really a twist, but it doesn't end the way one thought it would. Yep, that's Ellen Barkin in an early role...
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Bet on death
Cujo1085 February 2012
All is not right in a hospital that uses a hi-tech computer system to control everything from IV drips to defibrillators. Not only are some of the staff placing bets on patient recovery time, but someone is also using the computer's abilities for a more sinister agenda.

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.
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A fascinating mystery thriller with slasher overtones...
Warning: Spoilers
During my bizarre life long mission to track down all the obscure slasher movies ever released I came across this little known mid-eighties entry, which threw a real curve ball into the mix. Terminal Choice is NOT a typical genre piece in the Halloween/Friday the 13th mould. But it does include enough of the trappings (mystery killer/bloody deaths) to allow it to carve a way into the category. Unlike fellow medicinal additions such as Hospital Massacre and Visiting Hours, Sheldon Larry's mystery thriller uses futuristic computer technology as the main method of slaughter. This makes a refreshing change from the traditional surgical masked psycho with a scalpel, and its always interesting to see a slice of originality in a cycle that has often been slandered for its repetitiveness.

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…
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Misguided medical thriller, makes you long for Coma (1978)
Jonathon Dabell10 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Terminal Choice is terminally bad. It has a decent enough plot, but does virtually nothing with it. It is just a boring thriller which manipulates many people's fear of doctor's and their equipment.

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.
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Die from mysterious hemorrhages and place a few bets in the futuristic casino/hospital of doom!
Coventry9 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Quite a strange but intriguing find, this obscure and virtually unknown little 80's hospital thriller/horror movie. The plot doesn't always make perfect sense and the screenplay contains more holes than the average pair of fishnet-stockings, but the film definitely benefices from an oddly menacing atmosphere and a variety of truly ingenious ideas. There even is an even balance between genuine suspense moments and downright engrossing scenes of massacre, which is also quite praiseworthy to say the least. "Terminal Choice" is just a very peculiarly scripted film, and rather frequently you'll find yourself wondering how the hell the writers came up with some of the twists and story elements. The hospital setting is clearly a futuristic one, since all doors open automatically and routine interventions happen through medical devices that are built in the ceiling, but everything else outside the clinic's walls looks very much 80's and incredibly dated by today's standards. It's never mentioned in what year the story allegedly takes place and how modern medicine progressed specifically. We're just supposed to accept that hi-tech and pre-programmed computers now operate on people and all the supervising doctor has left to do is type in the correct dose of medication. This is probably why certain doctors develop alcoholism – yet continue to treat patients even though the entire hospital staff is aware – and others even set up a detailed and highly profitable gambling business in the basement, where fellow bored colleagues can put in money on the percentage of chance for full recovery of patients, the dose of drugs they require daily, etc. But there's another highly unethical and grim crime going on in the hospital, since patients with ordinary bladder infections suddenly die from excessive hemorrhages, and someone tries to blame it all on Dr. Frank Holt. See, the automated operations and particularly the undercover hospital gambling business are extremely ingenious and original key aspects in "Terminal Choice", but they should have been elaborated a little more. The film's emphasis wrongly lies on the love/hate relationship between Dr. Holt, who hates computers, and his ex-fiancée Anna Lang, who actually designed the programs for all the fully-functional computers in the hospital. The first death sequence is effectively unsettling and quite shocking, since you witness a defenseless young girl literally bleed to death. The remaining death scenes – one involving the sexy and still undiscovered Ellen Barkin – are mainly intense and disturbing instead of gross. I concur with my fellow reviewers in stating that "Terminal Choice" counts as a slasher; albeit a slightly atypical one. Some of the trademarks definitely (red herrings, characters behaving suspicious for no apparent reason, beautiful women stalked in the shower, flamboyant end-twist) but it's also one league above the majority of slasher outings of the 80's.
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