The Killing Hour (1982)

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AKA The Clairvoyant

A woman and two men are found dead in quick succession. Each one of them murdered, and each one of them bound with a pair of handcuffs. The police, headed by Det. Larry Weeks, are afraid there’s a serial killer on the loose, but are unable to link the three individuals, despite some striking similarities. But Weeks also has his hands full with persistent tabloid TV personality Paul McCormack, who’s desperate to get a scoop on what’s been dubbed the ‘Handcuff Killer’. Despite not having any leads, Weeks agrees to team up with McCormack to try to catch the maniac. 

Still at a dead end, the police catch (what may be) a break when artist Virna comes forward. Seems Virna’s been predicting the deaths of the victims, going into a trance and drawing them hours before they die. The police believe her (rather quickly, surprisingly), but Virna’s friend has a big mouth and they’re quick to realize that if they know about her, then surely the killer knows about her as well. So not only do they have to find the Handcuff Killer, but now they have to keep Virna out of his evil clutches as well.

killing_hour_2Verna, honey, I think you’re merging two different assignments together there….

I placed The Killing Hour on my Amazon watchlist primarily for three reasons: 1) because I found it in the ‘horror’ section and this is October, 2) it was rated higher than some of its peers, and 3) it’s from the 80s. Based on the description, I expected a slasher. What I got instead was an American giallo-lite thriller. So, depending on your tastes, you’re either going to find it immediately appealing or a huge turn-off.

I will say this though, regardless of your tastes in horror, The Killing Hour starts off with a proverbial bang. The viewer is given three pretty horrible deaths right off the bat. First, a dead woman is literally fished out of the river. Then we’re forced to watch a man slowly drown to death after he is blindsided in a pool and his foot is handcuffed to the bottom of the pool ladder. Then we get so see some poor sewer maintenance worker get handcuffed to a metal pole and electrocuted to death. The worst one to watch is undoubtedly the pool death. All the other deaths in the film are more implicit than explicit (most everything happens just off camera), but we’re actually forced to watch poor pool boy suffer and drown right before our eyes.

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killing_hour_4The whole scene is tinted in a soothing blood red. What could go wrong?

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Unfortunately for people looking for a slasher or thriller, after the first ten minutes the movie shifts gears and turns into a character drama. We learn about how Det. Weeks moonlights as comedy impersonator at the local clubs. We learn about how desperate and sleazy McCormick can be as he tries to get his dinky little talk show to hit the big time. And we learn about Verna and her history of clairvoyance. 

All of that comprises about the first half of the movie. While I may appreciate all the interesting background information and deeper-than-average character studies, I do have to admit that this info dump makes the first half of the film drag along at a limping pace. The ‘thriller’ part of the film doesn’t really kick in until the second half (which is also the 4th death). But for those who thrive on faster pace films, they may not even get that far.

Thankfully, after the fourth death the pace picks up substantially and we’re treated to a lot more obvious and familiar giallo elements.

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While I was happy with the focus on characters, one odd thing about the film was its need to make Verna so appealing to the male leads. Don’t get me wrong, Elizabeth Kemp is adorable, and I know that McCormack’s motivation was based on exploitation, but that still doesn’t explain Weeks. In fact, it makes me like Weeks even less (McCormack I already disliked). Not because I think he has bad taste (again, she’s adorable), but because…why? Sure, I know that by this point the film has established that Weeks is the type to skirt the rules, but I feel that trying to seduce a potential witness to a crime spree is a much more serious impropriety than sneaking off to the comedy club to do a quick routine in the middle of your shift. I think I know why they did it, but honestly I feel it makes his motivation to save her at the end of the film less meaningful.

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Though, now that I think of it, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Because Weeks is just a terrible cop. He abandons his job to do a gig at a comedy club (poorly, I might add), seduces a witness, lies to his lieutenant and, to top it off, gives out confidential information to the press less than three minutes after he’s strictly been told not to do that very thing. To add to  that, I don’t think we see him do any actual honest-to-god police work until the end of the film. We see the other cops do work, but not him. Yet the film wants us to believe he’s lovable. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why.

killing_hour_8No, really, what the hell do you find so appealing about this guy?

So is The Killing Hour any good? If you’re a fan of thrillers and giallo, then yes, you’ll probably enjoy this, assuming you can push through the sluggish first half. Giallo fans especially, will see a lot of familiar elements, what with the black gloves, red herrings, the twist reveal and the final altercation. But if you come in looking for a ‘horror’ movie you’re going to be disappointed. Though while it may not be strict horror, is is a decent giallo-lite and that’s pretty good in my book.

The Killing Hour is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

It is also available on DVD.

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Michi

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