Review Date: December 15, 1999
Released by: Elite Entertainment
Release date: August 12, 1998
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
The classic witch tale Horror Hotel
comes to us from Elite Entertainment, purveyors of cult horror films. At its roots Horror Hotel
is a witchcraft/cult tale, shot in Black and White some of the imagery and sets look beautiful and ghostly creating a perfect mood through the films setting. Also of note: Horror Hotel
features Christopher Lee, that alone is worth the price of admission. Fans of this little gem will be thrilled to have it in its original aspect ratio complete with a very nice presentation. All right now lets check in to the Raven's Inn and for gods sakes hold onto your belongings
In March 3rd 1692 a woman convicted of witchcraft, Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel), was burned at the stake. The villagers of WhiteWood Massachusetts discovered that on CandleMass Eve, Elizabeth Selwyn and a coven of witches sacrificed a girl underneath the Raven's Inn during a Black Mass to honor Lucifer. The sacrifices were made to seal a pack with the devil to grant the Witches eternal life. After Elizabeth's execution the town of White Wood did not settle back into tranquillity, but rather a new wave of blood sacrifices broke out and the daughters of the elders that convicted Elizabeth Selwyn were found dead. The figure of Elizabeth Selwyn was also seen wandering the town.
Three hundred years later Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson), who is a student of Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee), wants to travel to New England to get some first hand research on witchcraft for her senior paper on the subject. Mr. Driscoll recommends the Town of White Wood and instructs Nan to stay at the Raven's Inn. Nan, against the wishes of her boyfriend Bill (Tom Naylor) and brother Richard (Dennis Lotis), travels to the Town of White Wood promising to return soon. Upon arriving Nan notices the townspeople look at her strangely as if she were from a different world. Nan checks into the Raven's Inn where she meets Inn Keeper Mrs. Newless. What Nan doesn't realize, however, is that Mrs. Newless is none other than Elizabeth Selwyn.
Nan couldn't have picked a worse time to visit White Wood as it's once again Candlemass Eve and a new sacrifice must be made. When Nan never returns home Bill and Richard decide to haul ass to White Wood and find out what happened to her. There they must uncover the secrets of the Witches Coven and put an end to their blood sacrifices.
I thoroughly enjoy this little horror gem from 1960. I'm fascinated by the subject of witchcraft, much the same as the character Nan Barlow is in the film. Though I'm not involved with the craft I do find it very interesting and read up on it on occasion. It's probably because of this that I enjoy this film and others based on similar concepts. While watching this film I couldn't help but notice the parallels between this film and Psycho
. Oddly enough both films were released the same year. Both basic storylines are similar a young girl takes off on her own and spends the night at a Hotel only to disappear never to be heard from again.
Then, of course, worried relatives try to retrace her steps and figure out what happened to her/him. The film also plays the same trick on you opening with a character you think is the one you will follow throughout the film, but then stops her dead in her tracks within the first half of the film. It's definitely unsettling because you usually develop a bond with the main character and to see her/him killed can be surprising. The foggy town of White Wood itself is pretty spectacular and creates a nice mood and atmosphere. Of course the film shot in black and white definitely adds to the films atmosphere and style.
Lending some prestige to the film is Christopher Lee playing the role of Nan's Teacher who turns out to be a member of the Coven. Christopher Lee is always fun to watch and in Horror Hotel
he's trying his best to speak with an American accent. The acting from the other players is pretty good too, special mention goes to Patricia Jessel who plays Elizabeth Selwyn and Mrs. Newless. She's great as the diabolical witch intent on sacrificing poor Nan. Her performance as Mrs. Newless is very reserved as opposed to her performance as Elizabeth Selwyn about to be burned at the stake in the opening scenes of the film. Horror Hotel
is probably not liked by everyone but it does have a terrific atmosphere, one that not many other films can match.
Elite Entertainment presents Horror Hotel
in its original theatrical ratio 1.85:1. The transfer is not enhanced for 16:9 TVs and as you can see from the screenshots is in glorious B&W. For the most part the transfer exhibits some moderate grain and the opening witch burning scene is wrought with it. In addition, the smoke and mist present in these scenes displays some breakup and doesn't flow smoothly. Once we get to the present (at least for the films story) the image quality improves. Blacks are very solid and shadow detail was excellent. The whites were also clean.
The elements used for the transfer show very little speckling or scratches. However, I did note running vertical lines in a number of sequences. These aren't that distracting, but are there nonetheless. Detail and sharpness always remains strong making objects in the background well defined. If you've ever seen Horror Hotel on VHS you know the quality has always been relatively poor so I'm happy to say the image quality on this DVD presents Horror Hotel
in a new light. Though it certainly has some flaws its nothing serious to detract from viewing the film.
The sound presented in Dolby Digital Mono is not bad. Horror Hotel's musical score definitely lends the film a spooky surreal atmosphere and is well presented. I noted no background noise or hiss and dialogue was clear. To be honest though I can't help wondering if more could've been done with the soundtrack.
Pretty sparse, Horror Hotel
is packaged in a keepcase and has a one sided insert which includes chapter stops as well as a message about the transfer. Besides that the disc contains a full screen Theatrical Trailer. As you can imagine this certainly isn't up there with other Elite discs in terms of supplements like Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lady in White
and the like. It would have been nice to include a commentary; one by Christopher Lee would have been cool.
Although not everyone will view Horror Hotel
as a classic the film has a place in my heart after renting this film countless times when I was younger. Horror Hotel fans will be hard pressed to find a better presentation of Horror Hotel
than on this DVD. If you love films about witches as well as older black and white films full of stark imagery, Horror Hotel
is right up your alley. Listed at $29.99 the price tag may be a little steep for a movie only DVD with just a trailer, but fans suffering through poor VHS versions will undoubtedly rejoice at the nice presentation on this DVD.
Image Quality – B
Sound – B-
Supplements – C
- Running Time - 1 hour 16 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 44 Chapter Stops
- English dialogue
- Digital Sound Mono