Sunday, July 31, 2011

Your mechanical deathbed: Terminal Choice (1985)

Terminal Choice (AKA Death Bed/Critical List) (Canada, 1985)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Joe Spano, Diane Venora and David McCallum

Set in the future, a high tech clinic is run by terminal computers that control every operation going on with each patient and are monitored by the doctors. However, due to the fact that the staff had barely anything to do, they pass their time by breaking a few ethical rules including betting on which of their wards will bite the big one first.

When one patient, suffering from a bladder infection, dies from severe hemorrhaging due to an unknown substance placed in her medication, some action were to be expected to get into the bottom of this.
If you think that's bad, wait til you watch this scene...
In comes Dr. Frank Holt, who never trusted a single computer and whose bitterness towards the idea had his peers batting him with a sarcastic eye, perhaps enough to make sure he is to blame with the bizarre accidents that began to plague the hospital. Putting Holt in pressure, he has no choice but to go to an all-out investigation which unravels a series of betrayal, murder and unauthorized medical experiments.

Some might argue that this film is not a slasher film and I'm not going to disagree much because I can understand why; Terminal Choice has no human killer and the murders were done through sabotaged machines rather than hand-held weapons. And yet, it does contain some slasher overtones and a workable mystery that can keep seasoned fans glued; who is doing this and why are the big question presented before us and it's cleverly executed to keep you engaged as the conspiracy begins to unfold and more victims start dying from the "accidents".
This movie reminds me how much I'm afraid of heart attacks...
The murders in this film, while not very "slasher-like", still passes my expectations by tapping into the fear of putting your life to the trust of total strangers not of man, but of machines. The idea of your weakened state taken into the advantage of the killer may have been done in similar flicks like Hospital Massacre or Visiting Hours but in here, it's more chilling as it is done by automated machines. When the kills happen, they don't keep it simple; patients squirm to get away, blood soaked blouses, people cringe as it gets to them that they're dying, this is why I find this film effective because it scares me and its a rare chance to see a film from that sub-genre to effective scare its audience. There's great tension built for each of these deaths, which got on a full blow by the time our dear doctor friend had gotten himself injured and left at the mercy of the madman and their machines.

It's a shame that this movie is often overlooked because for a thriller, it delivers what most slasher fails to do and that is creating clever variations from the usual while keeping the tone in check and the murder-mystery fairly scary. The acting is solid and the pacing might get a little slow at the midle but pays off quite fairly at the last act.
um...wouldn't it be easier if you unplug it all instead
Terminal Choice is one movie that's aware of what it is and tries to give what the fans want: a bloody slasher film mixed with a crime-thriller style mystery. Find it and see it, you wont be disappointed.

1 female continuous hemorrhaging due to drug, bled to death
1 female suffocates on a malfunctioning ventilator
1 animal seen butchered
1 male found killed (method unknown)
1 male electrocuted by defibrillator
1 male had drug injected to neck, bled to death by hemorrhaging
1 male shot to death with handgun

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