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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

'Hotel of the Damned' DVD: Ex Con v. Cannibalistic Nazis

Uncork'd Entertainment lives up to its name (and reputation) regarding the March 7, 2017 DVD release of the wonderful odd (and surprisingly substantive) 2016 Romanian horror film "Hotel of the Damned." One spoiler is that this tale of monstrous Nazi cannibals who chase our stranded travelers Scooby-style around the titular crumbling lodging establishment is not a much more horrifying experience than stays at a couple of Best Westerns.

"Hotel" further is notable for casting two householdish names as leads. Louis Mandylor of the "Greek Wedding" franchise and other well-known films and television series stars in "Hotel" as recently released convict Nicky. His first order of business on having best bud Jimmy (whom Peter Dobson of projects such as the unfairly maligned USA network dramedy "Cover Me" nicely plays) collect him at the big house is to see daughter Maria.

Learning that Maria and scumbag addict boyfriend Bogdan have run off puts Nicky and Jimmy in hot pursuit. Their search leads them to a crack colony where they learn of the plans of Bogdan to take Maria across national lines for immoral purposes then leads to a confrontation with the young lovers that is hilariously humiliating for our Romeo.

These elements further add good depth. They make the plot meatier than a group of friends whose history compels them to look out for each other when unexpectedly confronted with an seemingly inescapable evil.

These events lead to the scene that serves as the opening segment for "Hotel." We see the stereotypical damsel in distress fleeing from the equally common shadowy big bad in a foggy forest as we first see our group traveling in a car through that neck of the woods.

These worlds colliding result in Nicky and the gang taking refugee in the titular run-down hostelry. In true horror fashion, the initial overall creepiness leads to more shadowy figures and whispered voices, which leads to increasingly terrifying encounters with the not-so-fine young cannibals that are driving our group crazy. Filmmaker Bobby Barbacioru gores so far as to throw in an actual (rather than merely symbolic) sexual attack.

On a larger level, the technique of interspersing flashbacks with the literal life-or-death struggle nicely draws outside the lines regarding the typical linear timeline in such films. The best thing about this is that it provides a nice break from starting with roughly 30 uninterrupted minutes of exposition at the beginning of the film, followed by another 30 minutes of increasing tension, and ending with 15 minutes of members of Team Monster Chow and Team Evil Entities ending up with one or more foreign objects embedded in their persons.

On a more specific level, parsing out bits of the back story in roughly five-minute segments throughout "Hotel" hold our attention and gets us to connect with the characters more than if it is fed to us in one big serving at the start. Our disdain for Bogdan grows at an natural pace as we slowly learn just how deep his creepiness extends.

All of this shows that Barbaciouri makes a true effort and understands that a low-budget horror film can be much more than chasing and chomping.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hotel" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.