Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Enjoy Your Stay At The Horror Hotel

After starting my One Step Beyond series and stumbling onto that 1960 British version of The Tell-Tale Heart, I have been in an extreme nostalgic mood with horror this week. Last night, I sat down and watch the 1960 Christopher Lee classic  Horror Hotel (one of Lee’s best non-Hammer performances next to Horror Express (1972) and The Wicker Man (1974)). The premise of the story is about a college student who goes to do research in a small town and promptly runs into strange goings on.

Synopsis: After listening to a lecture by Professor Alan Driscoll (Lee) about the town of Whitewood, Massachusetts set in 1692 where a local witch, Elizabeth Slwyn was burned at the stake, a student, Nan Barlow, decides to do a term paper on the subject. Nan drives to Whitewood to get whatever information she could get on the subject from what’s available in the towns records dating back to the 17th Century about witchcraft in general and the Slwyn case in particular. Getting instructions from a reluctant local living in the area, Nan drives into the town of Whitewood and checks into the Raven Inn where she meets the owner Mrs. Newlis and her mute helper Lottie,. Unknowing to her, she was about to meet a fate reserved only for someone like her, an innocent girl, that was needed for the Witches Holiday of Candlemass Eve (the fabricated Satanic mocking of the Church).  Ironically, Candlemass Eve is actually the celebration of Christ in the Temple (shame on those who thought it was actually a Satanic Holiday).

This early witchcraft and satanic movie predated both Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, yet, remains one of the best of the genre despite having a much lower budget to work with. In all, it is an eerie and spooky film about the practice of witchcraft and takes an honest look at the subject by covering some of the 300-years that transpired between the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 to the beginning of the 1960's. The black and white cinematography does a tremendous job at setting the mood throughout the film. At times, Whitewood just cries for a foreboding breath of fresh air and the eeriness permeates through the fabric of the town in an almost Lovecraftian way. Although I have seen this movie several times, I have to say that there are some elements that hit a nerve, with even the soundtrack making my skin crawl a bit. It is definitely a movie worth watching if you haven't yet had the chance.

One thing that must be mentioned is the similarities between Horror Hotel (Also released as The City of the Dead) and Psycho. Change out the characters of Norman and Mother, and the stories are virtually identical. However, I will admit that the idea of witchcraft and Satanic rituals against the creepily dark New England backdrop created a visual backdrop in my mind.

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