On occasion, a comical aspect exists within the horror film genre. Moxey’s Horror Hotel (or City of the Dead) is no exception. The reoccurring atrocious acting and horror clichés the audience has become increasingly familiar with, lead one to question whether this film is truly a horror film or perhaps, simply another comedy.
For the average horror addict, the clichés found in this 1960’s proclaimed classic have been regurgitated over the years, to such an extent, that they have lost their original intent. From the random hitchhiker who is willingly accepted as a passenger alongside the young, attractive (and utterly naïve) female driver, to the drawn out shots of odd characters with expressions alluding to grave danger, for the contemporary film-goer, these scenes are more comical than daunting.
While the plotline parades some depth and thought with the premise of witchcraft and an ominous town (rings a few bells), the audience need not venture further in looking for reason to take this movie seriously. This is especially true regarding the mood it attempts to convey. However, in spite of this pitfall, the script is deserving of some praise as, it occasionally provides golden moments of – dare I say – genius, though mostly it is found lacking.
As a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings films, witnessing Christopher Lee in his earlier days provides something unique and humorous. Alongside a lesser known cast to today’s audience comprised of Dennis Lotis and Patricia Jessel, Horror Hotel shows that every renowned actor begins somewhere and that most beginning aren’t spectacular. Needless to say, Lee has journeyed a long way from this 1960’s horror (comedy) film to bigger franchises of the twenty-first century.
Despite continually falling short, strong themes surrounding materialistic science and spiritual beliefs are utilised continually. They range from Richard Barlow’s (Dennis Lotis) unbelief and an adamant certainty in the scientific method, to Alan Driscoll’s (Christopher Lee) openness to the influences of witchcraft and the supernatural. As this develops, the audience is abandoned to ponder this age-old debate as the film’s short running time of 78 minutes comes to a close.
While Horror Hotel may be a classic for some, it is still found guilty of faults that keep it from being unique and instead, it betrays the horror genre through its comedic use of acting and clichés. It may be worth watching, but don’t be surprised when the audience snickers more than it gasps.
Film: Horror Hotel (1960)
Leading cast: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Patricia Jessel
Author’s rating: 2.5/5 stars
Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Running time: 78 minutes