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Portmanteau films have been somewhat of a staple of the British cinema – from earlier films such as The House that Dripper Blood and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors to more recent ones such as The Monster Club. Of course, they have also been prominent in horror, with the likes of Creepshow, V/H/S and Trick r Treat. The Haunted Hotel fits perfectly amongst these films.
An endeavour made with a tiny budget and a lot of determination, the indie The Haunted Hotel features eight different horror tales in the span of 150 years, all with one thing in common: they are all set in the same once-great hotel.
The stories are: ‘The Contraption’ (w. Robbie Sunderland, dir. Amy J. Feeley), ‘The Writer’ (w. Amy J. Feeley, dir. Joshua Dickinson), ‘Watching’ (w. Daphne Fox, dir. Jean Hogg), ‘Room 27b’ (w. Victoria Manthorpe, dir. Adam Collier), ‘Housekeeping’ (w. Joshua Dickinson, dir. Deveril), ‘Ghost of a Chance’ (w. Paul Saxton, dir. Jane Gull), ‘40 Years’ (w. Thomas Winward, dir. Joshua Carver) and, finally, ‘Devil Inside’ (w. Stephen Henning, dir. Toby Roberts). Each chapter works both as an isolated short film and as part of a bigger project for they all have different tones, structures, and focus.
Although the thread that links these shorts could have been more explored – the concept of the same hotel works, but at times something else was needed to make it more engaging – The Haunted Hotel presents well its different tones and works well with different degrees of horror. There are some jump scares, some slow-burn scares, but what the film does best is its comedy. Much of comedy here is due to the actors who have delivered in every sense. Each director was given mere minutes to present a story and it was up to the actors to embody it confidently and not once does the film trips over this ‘problem’.
Also important here is the production design which jumps out of the screen (in a good way!). 150 years separated in eight sections, shot in two five-day shooting blocks is not an easy feat, and the production design, together with costumes that brought colour to the actors’ performances, helped to link the stories together with a shared quality. The production design does not fall through the cracks; it literally dresses up the film and it is felt as a character itself.
The Haunted Hotel is fun and well done – the group of filmmakers have created a film that handles its challenges well and entertains throughout!