Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Movies to Scare the Shit out of You - Horror Hotel – You Wanna Start Somethin’ With Me?

Check into horror hotel
This place is creepy and it's somber too
And a little vampira wrapped on my neck, said
Say something, say something
You wanna start something with me

Well, take it up to room 21
Where all the creatures gonna have their fun
And underworld dangers and underworld scum
Take it up to room 21

And down the hall with my vampire girlfriend
Say something, say something
You wanna start something with me, here at

Horror hotel, horror hotel
Horror hotel, horror hotel
It's up to me

Gather round the place of the demon whore
And my girl in room 21
Well, underworld dangers and underworld scum
Take it up to room 21

Down the hall with my vampire girlfriend
Say something, say something
You wanna start something with me here at

Horror hotel, horror hotel
Horror hotel, horror hotel
It's up to me when it comes down to necking with girls

Horror hotel, horror hotel
Horror hotel, horror hotel
It's up to me

For those of you who believe that the only frightening film of the 1960’s was Psycho (with which this film would be compared) check in to Horror Hotel. Also known as The City of the Dead, this film was shot at the legendary Shepperton Studios in England where just about every piece of amazing Amicus footage was shot in the 60’s and 70’s even though this isn’t an Amicus picture. This is a public domainer… means that nobody owns the distro rights anymore and you can pretty much d what you’d like with it. It gets as much play as Night of the Living Dead on the horror host circuit for that reason alone, but you wanna know something? This is a scary picture.

Synopsis (from the I to the M to the D to the B):

“A young coed (Nan Barlow) uses her winter vacation to research a paper on witchcraft in New England. Her professor recommends that she spend her time in a small village called Whitewood. He originally cam from that village so he also recommends she stay at the "Raven's Inn," run by a Mrs. Newlis. She gets to the village and notices some weird happenings, but things begin to happen in earnest when she finds herself "marked" for sacrifice by the undead coven of witches. It seems that the innkeeper is actually the undead spirit of Elizabeth Selwyn, and the "guests" at the inn are the other witches who have come to celebrate the sacrifice on Candalmas Eve. As one of them said when Nan walked away, "HE will be PLEASED."

So you can show it without fear of retaliation, but there’s more than meets the eye. It’s not some B picture that you are meant to disregard even if the production value is somewhat lower and its lack in the significant abundant of tits and gore that you might find in a 70’s witchcraft picture. Hell, it’s G rated compared to any of the inquisition films that would come later. Maybe I’m partial to stories about witches and warlocks and Satan, but this film has dark imagery and feelings that, despite an overactive fogger, is quite real. It goes beyond any exploitation related content (boobs couldn’t have hurt it though). Let’s run a scenario right quick to see if it sounds familiar to any of you ghoulies.

You’ve been reading in Weird NJ that a certain cemetery in the middle of a rather rural area of the state is haunted. By what, you have no idea, but people have heard things and said they’ve seen strange things (and no clarification). You decide to explore the cemetery. In the dark. So you won’t get caught and so you might actually get the opportunity to see a real ghost. Bragging rights and stardom will be yours. Poor weary ghost hunter from NJ, you will leave disappointed or fooled by a group of your friends. Now everything up the failure follows in similar fashion to Horror Hotel. You read something or study something that perks your interest based on true, “detailed” accounts by “reputable” sources. You decide to do your own private investigation to validate or invalidate the idea in question. In your search you will enter into a world that is slightly off putting… now if what you had been searching was real you might be dead or readied for sacrifice by the next reel. Since you’re not, you should try reading more reputable books on haunting or supernatural encounters. If you’re dead, you’re not reading this and maybe someday I’ll be the schmuck who ghost hunts you and disproves my own lousy blog analogy.

In Horror Hotel, you’re getting the “choose your own adventure” that doesn’t deliver you a pot of gold at the end of a dark, dark trek into the woods. So when you watch Horror Hotel you feel as though you’ve entered your very own personal ghost/witch/supernatural hunt only to find out that the devil is, in fact, real. Combine that with some classic 60’s actors including our beloved Christopher Lee and the story becomes quite believable. Obviously a work of fiction, but there’s nothing in this movie up until the end that doesn’t feel like it couldn’t really be happening. Curses and intimate relations with Satan… I’ll buy that.

Sure it’s in black and white, but so was Psycho… and while we’re on that subject of the lonesome insanity of good ol’ Norman, I’ve read that this film can be compared to Psycho. Sure, there are a few choice similarities. While I love Hitchcock, Psycho has never been my favorite work. I prefer Rope and the animal revenge epic, the Birds. I suppose if you’re going to travel anywhere that’s somewhat remote you may have to stay at a hotel or a motel… there’s always Dead and Breakfast, did that rip off Psycho? If you’re visiting a strange place, somewhat far away, you might have blond hair… maybe you wanted a different cut or your hairdresser convinced you that low lights were really the very in thing to do. Once you’ve realized that, hey, they’re not for you it’s time to dye it… BLOND (not Black, Peter Steel RIP). So if you go to a strange place you might stay at a strange hotel/motel. When you get there, you may have blond hair and if you get there with blond hair and snoop around showing clear intent to uncover the centuries old truth on the prevalent history of black magic in the locale, you might just get yourself stabbed. And if you get yourself stabbed, well, you shoulda never left your front door. What I’m trying to say is that despite all the similarities you can find these similarities to Psycho in any film. Didn’t that feel like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? It was nearly unintentional. Even if the producer of this film were to come and say that he was ripping off Psycho I wouldn’t care or believe it. The film was made around the same time as Psycho, but was released before Psycho but after the book. Remember that grain of salt you were hanging on to? Well you can take that last statement with it.

I think if you wanna take a look at a movie that bears quite a bit of similarity to our beloved Horror Hotel but not Psycho, venture a gaze at the Mask of Satan aka Black Sunday by the great, Mario Bava. The imagery bears some resemblance. Also release in 1960, there are claims that Horror Hotel “borrowed” certain concepts or stole directly certain imagery. I’ll buy that. It doesn’t change my opinion, but could happen.

Not convinced? Well Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie and King Diamond have all used this film in some fashion in their own horrifying works. Those names are names that command a great deal of respect in the metal and horror work alike. Iron Maiden tell twisted tales of terror through their songs not limited to but including Number of the Beast… about… THE DEVIL!!! King Diamond writes elaborate tales that span entire albums. Rob Zombie uses the silver screen and included a sample from Horror Hotel in his hit single Dragula.

It may not be the “Check in, but you won’t check out” tagline that Fred Kruger might deliver you, but “SCREAM With Guests From The "Other World" When You Ring For DOOM SERVICE!” gets my blood pumping and has me craving an overpriced cheeseburger.

Enjoy some musical sampling from our three minstrels of madness.




Say something, say something
You wanna start something with me, here at…

-Dr. Terror

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