Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Horror Hotel' has lots of amosphere but few sparks

Horror Hotel (aka "City of the Dead") (1960)
Starring: Venetia Stevenson, Christopher Lee, and Patricia Jessel
Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When Nan (Stevenson) decides to spend her Winter Break working on a research project involving witches, her professor (Lee) urges her to travel to a small New England village that has a rich history of witchcraft. Once there, she discovers that the fog-bound hamlet is crawling with evil witches and Satanists (both alive and undead).

"Horror Hotel" has a few nice scares, a couple of genuinely chilling moments, and nice performances by its stars (with Jessel being particularly excellent in a dual role as innkeeper and evil undead witch), but the most constant feature of the film is tedium. The fog-shrouded village and its decaying cemetary are rich with atmosphere, but the pay-offs of that atmosphere are too few, and I often felt myself wishing that the film would get on with it.

In final analysis, "Horror Hotel" is a fabulously atmospheric movie, but the filmmakers are then unable to fully capitalize on that atmosphere.