Fright Club: Best (Worst?) Hotels in Horror Movies

You check in. You assume the best. You’d never think, as you doze off in total helplessness, that maybe the last guest is still lingering in spirit, or was fed to gators, or that the hotel itself may be the doorway to hell.

In all likelihood the worst thing you’ll bring home with you is bedbugs, but I’ll take the gators.

For this episode we’re joined by our dear friend Jamie Ray from the Fave Five from Fans podcast and, at his behest, we will run through horror cinema’s best – or worst? – hotels.

Listed below are our five favorites, but honorable mentions go to Eaten Alive‘s Starlite Hotel, Basket Case‘s Hotel Broslin, Hotel Quickie from Killer Condoms and Slausen’s Oasis from Tourist Trap.

5. Motel Hello (Motel Hell, 1980)

It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters, so swingers looking for a cheap motel in which to swing – be warned! Fifties heartthrob Rory Calhoun plays Farmer Vincent, who, along with his sister Ida (a super creepy Nancy Parsons) rid the world of human filth while serving the righteous some tasty viddles. Just don’t look under those wiggling, gurgling sacks out behind the butcherin’ barn!

Motel Hell is a deeply disturbed, inspired little low budget jewel. A dark comedy, the film nonetheless offers some unsettling images, not to mention sounds. Sure, less admiring eyes may see only that super-cheese director Kevin Connor teamed up with Parsons and Calhoun – as well as Elaine Joyce and John Ratzenberger – for a quick buck. But in reality, they teamed up to create one of the best bad horror films ever made.

4. White Lovers’ Inn (The Happiness of the Katakuris, 2001)

Guests rarely come and a strange fate awaits them.

Takashi Miike is an extremely prolific director. He makes a lot of musical films, a lot of kids’ movies, a lot of horror movies, and then this – a mashup of all of those things. Like Sound of Music with a tremendous body count.

The Katakuris just want to run a rustic mountain inn. They’re not murderers. They’re lovely – well, they’re losers, but they’re not bad people. Buying this piece of property did nothing to correct their luck, either because, my God, their guests do die.

You might call this a dark comedy if it weren’t so very brightly lit. It’s absurd, farcical, gruesome but sweet. There’s a lot of singing, some animation, a volcano, a bit of mystery, more singing, one death by sumo smothering, and love.

3. Hotel Ostend (Daughters of Darkness, 1971)

Seduction, homoeroticism, drowsy lustfulness – this one has it all.

Countess Bathory – history’s female version of Dracula – checks into an all-but-abandoned seaside hotel. The only other guests, besides the Countess’s lover, Ilona, is a honeymooning couple.

Effortlessly aristocratic, Delphine Seyrig brings a tender coyness, a sadness to the infamous role of Bathory. Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband, in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really – and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.

Caring less for the victims than for the predator – not because she’s innocent or good, but because her weary elegance makes her seem vulnerable – gives the film a nice added dimension.

The accents are absurd. The outfits are glorious. The performances are compellingly, perversely good, and the shots are gorgeous. Indulge yourself.

2. Bates Motel (Psycho, 1960)

It doesn’t look like much, but the old Bates place used to be something before the new highway. Now it’s really just Norman, some dusty bungalows, that ice machine, swamp out back, some stuffed birds and, of course, Mother.

Anthony Perkins was the picture of vulnerability in Hitchcock’s horror classic, but the motel itself is also about as benign as a spot can be. Hardly the downcast, shadowy, menacing lodging you think of today when you think of low-rent motels. It’s bright, clean and empty. Lonesome, but hardly frightening. Just like Norman.

1. The Overlook Hotel (The Shining, 1980)

You know who you probably shouldn’t hire to look after your hotel?
Jack Nicholson.

A study in atmospheric tension, Kubrick’s vision of the Torrance family collapse at the Overlook Hotel is both visually and aurally meticulous. It opens with that stunning helicopter shot, following Jack Torrance’s little yellow Beetle up the mountainside, the ominous score announcing a foreboding that the film never shakes.

The hypnotic, innocent sound of Danny Torrance’s Big Wheel against the weirdly phallic patterns of the hotel carpet tells so much – about the size of the place, about the monotony of the existence, about hidden perversity. The sound is so lulling that its abrupt ceasing becomes a signal of spookiness afoot.

Nicholson outdoes himself. His early, veiled contempt blossoms into pure homicidal mania, and there’s something so wonderful about watching Nicholson slowly lose his mind. Between writer’s block, isolation, ghosts, alcohol withdrawal, midlife crisis, and “a momentary loss of muscular coordination,” the playfully sadistic creature lurking inside this husband and father emerges.

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