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Hospital Horrors

The thought crossed my mind that if I did wake up, would it be to a desolate Hollywood?

The sun, California’s all-reliable HMI light, blasting harshly on Barham Road, devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of traffic careening into and out of Valley. The “Harry Poster” poster, large enough to be seen from a NASA Shuttle orbiting Earth, plastered on the side of Warner Bros. now a burned mess. Hermione’s face disgracefully biting asphalt on the street below, Potter’s mug proclaiming “The End is Incredibly F**ckin’ Nigh” in garish, drippy spray paint. NBC, just down the street, is a smoldering husk. My favorite comic book digs, House of Secrets, looted by fanboys in a desperate attempt to score some reading material and plastic companionship in the guise of a Supergirl or Catwoman statue before they go into hiding from “the infected” who now run rampant through the town. Desperate to tear at the flesh of agents and actors alike.

But I did come out of it. Body numb. 28 Days Later fears subsiding. Family and girlfriend waiting in the wings, anxious to hear of my status from the nurse who is lubricating my veins with a generous dose of Delodin for the slowly evident, prickly pain in my side. Lucidity enters my skull and my eyes shoot down to a bloodied tube protruding from my skin just below my armpit. What kind of pickle have I gotten myself into now? Ah, yes, it’s going to be one helluva long stay here at the hospital.

Let’s rewind for a moment, shall we? It’s the eve before Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors. Myself and a large group of horror professionals converge on Lucy’s 51 in Toluca Lake – just down the street from the Bob’s Big Boy you’ve seen in James Cameron’s The Terminator and Michael Mann’s Heat. The night is filled with excitement, schmoozing, libations…then the feeling of a trident poking into my back. Eventually this pain would circumnavigate to my sternum the following morning. Long story short, I’m diagnosed with a “spontaneous pneumothorax,” also known as “a collapsed lung.” Uh-oh. That’s it. Right lung, out of commission. Apparently raising protest for reasons unknown, a roommate frustrated by its co-inhabitant, the left lung.

“It happens to guys of your height and build,” the doctors tell me while I savor every breath. “You don’t smoke pot, do you?” Nada, I tell them. And that’s the truth. Ironically, I pride myself on good health, good eating and frequent gym visits. The drink, my only vice.

Then came the visit to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s across the street from Disney. You can tell “the Mouse” has compromised this place. Johnny Depp’s dirty visage as Captain Jack stares at me sultry-eyed in the form of a sticker affixed to the name tag of the admitting nurse. “Were you smoking pot last night?” No, insist, and a thought, “Why? Is Keira Knightley or Minnie Mouse going to reward me for my good behavior?”

Then came the surgery. I don’t suffer Cillian Murphy’s fate. Then came the Delodin-fueled bed ride through St. Joseph’s, through the lobby (there’s a piano player in this joint?), down the hall to the cancer ward where I’m introduced to my room for what’s to be a week’s stay. I see more nurses. Oh, it happens to guys your height. I see a doctor or two. Do you smoke…the pot? I’m visited by a truly stand-up gang of friends who decorate my room in horror posters and memorabilia. Then came the genre celeb or two: Neil Marshall (The Descent) swings by with his lovely now-fiancée, Axelle, a colleague of mine. Italy’s stunning horror queen Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (Opera, Mother of Tears) does her best to induce a heart attack in me with her presence. I try to be as suave as possible in light of the fact I haven’t had a proper shower in two days, my hair, caked with styling gel residue, is a biological perplexity at this point and the tube in my side occasionally burps out darkish red blood from my chest cavity which is sluggishly pulled into a rectangular box at the foot of my bed.

Then came a thought, materializing from those sweet Delodin trips and the web updates – to keep this fine site alive – occurring in between fits of barfing, much to the chagrin of Coming Soon’s editor (sorry, bud, I’m a workaholic) and my dedicated girlfriend. This whole thing has got to be my next Rotten Truth!

But a hook, a hook, I need a hook to tie it in. I thought about all those poor hospitalized suckers in horror who languished in their beds as I was doing. Who pissed into Tupperware bottles as I was doing (I’d like to thank Joe “Wrong Turn 2” Lynch for being there to take pictures). Who tried to hold on to some dignity in their flimsy hospital gown with the ornate red flowers design. I requested movies, all related in some way or another to the health care system. I don’t get Michael Moore’s latest, Sicko; instead, the troops came back with Jacob’s Ladder (brilliance), Halloween II (decent sequel), The Kingdom (spurts of creepiness) and The Exorcist III (helloooo giant scissors!). Yessir, these are all ideal flicks to get you in the mood, but four titles begged for my attention. Flicks out of the norm that don’t receive the recognition they deserve. So, here they are in no particular order.

Body Parts: My cure for APF, that’s “Animal Planet Fixation.” When I was fed up with watching “Meerkat Manor” I tossed in this morbid Eric Red-directed gem from 1991. Pre-Lawnmower Man Jeff Fahey is in prime form (“Let me be blunt, doctor. Why don’t you go f**k yourself.”) as an arm donor recipient who learns his new appendage came from a serial killer. Naturally, it takes on a life of its own and Fahey is pulled into a Frankenstein-like conspiracy fabricated by some meddling scientists. He tracks down other beneficiaries of the hacked up homicidal maniac including Brad Dourif who is given some choice moments to spit his way through some great rants in that bug-eyed Brad Dourif way. Implausible in every way, but combined with Loek Dikker’s Theremin-heavy score, Red’s film has a fun modern day gore meets ’50s science-gone-amok aesthetic going for it.

Visiting Hours: Michael Ironside is a black leather tank-top. Michael Ironside in jewelry. Need we say more? Our favorite “Scanner” stars in this Canadian production as a psycho misogynist who targets outspoken news gal Lee Grant (Damien: Omen II). She’s campaigning for the rights of a woman who killed her abusive husband in self-defense and Ironside ain’t havin’ it because he’s exorcising some of his own personal demons. So, after an initial attack lands Grant in the hospital, he tries and tries again to get at her while masquerading as a florist and a nurse. People get dead along the way, Ironside turns a freakshow of a performance and William Shatner show up. The script by Brian Taggert (Of Unknown Origin, Poltergeist III) has its lulls but director Jean-Claude Lord spices it up with some stylistic slasher pizzazz.

Infection (Kansen): None of my nurses looked as cute as the incompetent, but easy on the eyes, professionals in producer Taka Ichise’s J-horror flick. (Then again, I was lucky when I was visited by nurses at all. On a floor with those decimated by the Big C, a healthy dude with a shriveled lung was the least of anyone’s problems.) Infection is unique in that it doesn’t lapse into lame-o “girls with long, black hair” scares which is funny because it comes from the producer of The Grudge. Here, a financially ailing hospital and its staff face the accidental death of a patient and an organ-liquefying virus. It’s simple, drippy (literally) and atmospheric with no pretenses. It just wants to creep into your head, under your skin and make your squirm a little.

Masters of Horror: Right to Die: I’m sorry, but I found Rob Schmidt’s second season entry clever and timely. It’s got a noir-ish angle – a scorned wife seeking revenge – filtered through familiar supernatural trappings. Martin Donovan plays a dentist whose wife is horrifically burned in a car accident. Comatose, she becomes the center of a “right to die” case (a la Terry Schiavo). During this time, her worthless, cheating hubby plays tug-of-war with his emotions as he allows his frisky assistant to tug on his dental drill. Eventually, his wife’s spirit decides takes a leave of absence from her once hot bod to do some haunting. Decent shock scares, a gag-worthy display of “skin cleansing” (brought to you by…KNB EFX) and its wry ending made “Die” one of the best episodes of a weak season.

One thing screenwriter John Esposito got right is the hospital’s use of “codes.” Here, one nurse calls out “Code Blue” – someone’s having a heart attack or dying. From my bed, late at night, I heard “Code Red” a few times. That means “fire.” No shit, I’m not lying. Later, I learned it was an old geezer who tripped the smoke alarm puffing on a coffin nail.

“Code Zero” spells bad news. Evacuation.

So, how do I possibly end this Truth entry? Well, I can say I didn’t have it as bad as some of horror’s most memorable “patients” (not to mention those poor souls I shared the hospital wing with). I can say I’m doing just fine now; my bastard lung, which I’m sure looked like a wrinkly mushroom in its chest cavity is now operating as it should. Or should I end on a philosophical note, correlating my fascination with death in film and coming close to doing the hokey-pokey with death himself… Nah, let’s hold that downer for another day. I’m valuing the reality that I’m at least still around to enjoy the horror genre another day.

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Source: Ryan Rotten