Another review from the world of dark cinema.
With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )
FILM :: HORROR HOTEL
YEAR :: 1960
DIRECTOR :: John Llewellyn Moxey
I love little vintage film gems like this. Every time I see one, I picture myself in the dim light of a matinee, a single screen theater, a smiling pre-teen horror fan taking it all in. It does, of course, predate me (1960, anyway), but I can picture it so clearly. I guess where I’m going with that is that there’s something wonderfully comforting about films like “Horror Hotel” (or “City of the Dead” as it was called for its European release).
Well-cast, well-written and well-produced on a modest budget, there’s a ton to like about this film.
George Baxt and Milton Subotsky were on writing duties here and they did a bang-up job of giving this a strong backbone. Though surreal, the story hangs together well and for me, it captured the spirit of the arcane and horrific setting and feel of much of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.
The cast is a really great group. To start, how can you not like the great Christopher Lee in a relatively early role as the intensely-dark-but-super-suave college professor, Alan Driscoll? Fun, all day long. Tony-Award-winning stage actress, Patricia Jewell is wonderful as a witch, burned at the stake in 17th century New England, but returned to life to terrorize the cursed village of Whitewood.
The remaining cast is strong and fun in turn, but I found myself particularly captivated by Nan, the college co-ed at the center of the film, played by the beautiful Venetia Stevenson. Stevenson is truly gorgeous (we even see her briefly looking amazing in a corset — don’t worry, it’s QUITE tame) and she’s perfect for the role.
Wowsers, what a vision!
I would be remiss not to mention the other beauty of the film, Betta St. John, who is the “Marilyn” to the “The Munsters” of Whitewood — a beacon of normalcy and ravishing in her own right amongst the scares and freaks of the dark town and it’s dark townsfolk. Her normalcy only adds to the eeriness of the proceedings.
All of that is a huge part of “Horror Hotel’s” success, but what I like best is it’s tense atmosphere. I love where so much of the horror genre has gone today, but I think we’ve quite often lost the eerie atmospheric “turn of the screw” that works so well about 60’s genre gems of this type. Really, this movie is FULL of horror genre tropes, but they all work so well that it only adds to the film’s charm. From dark, cobwebbed catacombs to satanic-driven dialogue to mouldering graveyards, it’s all in “Horror Hotel,” but to truly great effect.
If you’re looking for something with a wonderful vintage appeal that still has some eerie creeps and atmosphere, you’ve found it in “Horror Hotel.”
RATING ………………. 4 STARS