When you name your film “Hotel of the Damned” in this day and age, you’re going to get eyerolls from some horror fans thinking it’s another lame possession flick. Things probably don’t change when the onesheet looks like a lame possession flick, and doesn’t even match the synopsis. Putting that much stake into titles or overviews alone is pretty shallow, obviously. The whole horror genre is based on giving films with hokey titles/synopses a chance instead of being snooty. Films like Hotel of the Damned might be pretty damn entertaining.
Recently released from jail, Nicky (Louis Mandylor) is looking to make things right with his daughter, Eliza (Roxana Luca), who has run away with her junkie boyfriend, Bogdan (Bogdan Marhodin). Nicky and his pal Jimmy (Peter Dobson) track down and pick up Eliza to take her home (with Bogdan in the trunk). On the drive back, however, they crash the car and are left injured and stranded. The group takes refuge in a seemingly abandoned hotel until morning. Unbeknownst to them, the hotel is home to a family of cannibals.
As cliché as it is, I’m a sucker for abandoned buildings at night in horror films. There’s no shortage of potential creep factor in these locales if they’re executed correctly. Luckily for Hotel of the Damned, director Bobby Barbacioru has seen fit to create the proper atmosphere in the hotel, not only using low light to keep the shadows to a maximum, but also dressing the scenes realistically to have the hotel look run-down. There’s also some good tension throughout with the cat-and-mouse games played by the cannibals (who are appropriately kept in shadow), with the score and relatively quick pace helping to keep the unease high.
Performance-wise, the film again reaches for clichés. We see a lot of Nicky and Jimmy (given Mandylor’s producer and Dobson’s executive producer credits, it’s easy to see why). While their relationship is typical “best buddies”, Mandylor and Dobson turn in some uninspired acting. They don’t seem to want to be in the film, and resort (yet again) to your stereotypical tough guy caricatures. Luca and Marhodin put more effort into their roles, but again, it’s nothing that stands out.
In fact, there’s not a whole lot about Hotel of the Damned that stands out. Apart from the overuse of clichés, the film spends its first half flipping to flashbacks to show how the the group got into their predicament, instead of showing it in realtime. It not only disrupts the flow of the film, but the flashbacks are crammed into the first 40 minutes. The whole idea is dropped once the viewers are “up to speed”. If you’re going to resort to the technique, at least try to spread it out or if you can’t, rework the film in editing. What’s even more frustrating is that it turns out that the onesheet was on to something. Expecting to see cannibals in the act? Apart from one munching scene, there’s no other scene in the film involving cannibalism. Hell, there’s not even a mention of the word throughout the entire movie!
Yes, Hotel of the Damned is damn mundane. Instead of working with a derivative yet potential-filled idea, the film instead resorts to tropes that we’ve all seen before, with acting that inspires apathy to the characters and the story. There are so many other better films (both indie and Hollywood) that do a much better job of taking the isolated area and/or cannibal concept, and putting out something entertaining. Not this one. See it if you want, but don’t be surprised if you’re turning it off halfway through.
Hotel of the Damned hits VOD December 6th.
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