Horror Hotel aka The City Of The Dead (1960)

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Alright gang, we’re starting on a whole selection of movies from my collection that I’ve never seen before. You know how itis, you buy a box set for $5, grab movies you’ve heard of when you see them for a good price, and add them to the collection before you’ve even bothered to sit down and watch them. So, by the end of this run of reviews, I’ll have (hopefully) seen all the movies in my collection. Starting things off with a box set called “FRIGHTFEST : Nightmare in Box” that I picked up for $5 at Zellers. It has ten horror movies in it, some of which completely don’t play, and others that I’ve already seen. So we’ll see how this goes.

Starting off, we are going to The City of The Dead, or as it’s called in this particular box set, Horror Hotel.

I guess the best place to start is with the IMDB synopsis, so here we go :

A young coed (Nan Barlow) uses her winter vacation to research a paper on witchcraft in New England…

Good lord, so this is the condensed version of an entire paragraph that over explained the movie. If you really want to know the rest go and see it on IMDB, but if you’re content with my edited version, then good. Lets move on.

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For a movie from the 60s about witches, this is actually a really effectively spooky movie. It is very atmospheric, though a little bit hammy in that regard at times, and has a real tension that works well for the time and makes the movie watchable even now. That being said, of course the attempts at creating atmosphere do get a little bit silly. The town the movie is mostly set in appears to be in a perpetual night, and has a real problem with very low hanging fog. It’s definitely reminiscent of the time, and it’s not a real problem, but it does have that silly 60s charm that you expect from movies like this. Silly fog aside though, the movie really does have a wonderful and creepy atmosphere and it’s really effective through and through.

Now, the only recognizable actor in this one is the IMMORTAL Christopher Lee, that being said he’s quite young in this movie (I say that, but apparently he’s about 40… because the man is apparently ageless) and I didn’t recognize him if I’m being completely honest. Anyways, he gives a dynamite performance, because Lee does nothing else. We also have some great performances from the rest of the cast, in particular Patricia Jessel as Mrs. Newless, and a great performance from (the extremely attractive) Venetia Stevenson as Nan Barlow. Though, she’s really not in the film for very long. Everyone else does a fine job, I really can’t complain about what I saw from any of them. They’re a bit dated, but that’s part of the charm of these movies and it only adds to the experience.

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The movie does move along a little bit slowly, but it never gets to the point where it feels draggy. As well, it goes to some pretty dark places that I didn’t expect. Though, when I think about it, movies had been changing the year this came out, with the release of Psycho in the same year, it seems like movies were getting darker and more disturbing than they previously had. Yes, I know that there are exceptions, but this one does feel like a modern movie in some of the choices it makes, and some of the violence and general tone that it  takes.

It is definitely one of the better horror movies about witches that I’ve seen in a long time, with the exception of American Horror Story’s most recent season there actually hasn’t been much, and so going back and checking this one out was a nice change of pace. It manages to be creepy, and at times scary, without feeling incredibly dated or too goofy. At times it even managed to feel a little bit like House Of The Devil.

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Anyways, that’s really all I have to say about this one. It’s definitely a new favorite , and I hope you will go ahead and check it out. If you’re looking for something old, and about witches, you could definitely do much worse than this. Give it a watch!

FINAL GRADE: B

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