Horror loves its ‘terrible places‘. The looming Gothic castles of Hammer horror movies. Remote cabins in dense woods. Haunted houses with creaking doors and dimly lit halls. According to American professor Carol J Clover, the ‘terrible place’ was one of several necessary ingredients for horror. Though they may not immediately come to mind, hotels have served as the locale for some great horror movies. From Bates Motel to The Overlook, hotels have offered horror fans more scares than just bedbugs and stained sheets. Check in below with eight horror hotels that have more than a handful of creepy amenities.
Bates Motel – Psycho (1960)
Oh, we have 12 vacancies. Twelve cabins, 12 vacancies.
It may the most recognizable motel in cinematic history. From one of the most influential filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho remains an engrossing and chilling thriller – even if you already know its famous twist. Aside from its iconic shower scene, Psycho boasts a handful of stunning camera shots while Anthony Perkins’ performance solidifies Norman Bates as one of the genre’s greatest villains. Whether Psycho was an early proto-slasher or not, its late 80s sequels would largely conform to the subgenre. Fortunately, Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised shot-for-shot remake, the Bates Motel prequel series (and re-imagining) found new life in the concept.
The Motel Hello – Motel Hell (1980)
They don’t make movies like Motel Hell anymore. An interestingly weird mix of horror and dark humor, Motel Hell plays like Texas Chainsaw Massacre if Peter Jackson had directed – minus the insane levels of gore. At farmer Vincent Smith’s Motel Hello, guests are buried up to their necks, vocal cords cut, and ‘harvested’ for meat. Not surprisingly, the mix of horror and comedy is uneven at best. Motel Hell delivers on the horror, but its humor may be too broad for a lot of horror fans. Still Motel Hell is a quintessential example of 80s horror.
Seven Doors Hotel – The Beyond (1981)
From the legendary Italian gore-master Lucio Fulci, The Beyond is a classic example of 70s and 80s Italian horror. A woman inherits an old Louisiana hotel that ends up sitting atop of a gateway to hell, or something like that. Like most Italian horror from the time period, the story is pretty inconsequential. Stuff happens, characters show up and disappear or die, and most viewers will likely have no clue what’s going on. And it doesn’t matter. The Beyond delivers exactly what you want from a Fulci movie – insane amounts of gore. Among the highlights is a scene where Fulci unleashes a horde of tarantulas that proceed to devour a character.
Remote Nevada Motel – Identity (2003)
And here’s the first of two John Cusack entries on the list. Though it’s essentially a pulp neo-noir B-movie, Identity boasts a lot of pedigree. There’s Oscar nominee director James Mangold whose work includes Logan and Ford v Ferrari. In addition to Cusack, the cast includes Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, and the underrated John Hawkes. Several strangers find themselves stranded at a remote Nevada hotel during a rainstorm where an unknown killer picks them off one by one a la Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated story, a convicted killer awaits a ruling on his insanity please. Whether its twist holds up is debatable. Regardless Identity is a fun, polished ‘sort of’ slasher that’s better than expected.
The Pinewood Motel – Vacancy (2007)
Another B-movie with a lot of talent, Vacancy never quite nails the potential of its premise. A bickering married couple – played by Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson – discover a collection of VHS snuff movies in their cheap roadside motel. But there’s a catch – the movies were filmed in the room in which they’re staying. To its credit, Nimrod Antal’s (Predators) movie is short, tightly paced, and invests some emotion into its characters. Moreover, Vacancy’s early restraint and build-up create enough suspense to hook you in for its duration. In the end, Vacancy is the sort of movie you’d wouldn’t turn off if it happened to be on television, but you’d be unlikely to seek it out.
The Dolphin – 1408 (2007)
Another Stephen King adaptation, another horror hotel, and another John Cusack movie. While it would be easy to dismiss 1408 as a less ambitious The Shining, this is a very understated effort. Following his daughter’s death, author Mike Enslin chases down one supernatural locale after the next intent on disproving the existence of the afterlife. But his latest subject, the supposedly haunted Room 1408 in The Dolphin Hotel, proves him wrong … in the worst way possible. No one is going to mistake 1408 for a classic. As it stands, this one is firmly planted in the middle of film adaptations of King’s work. But it’s also subtly creepy. And Cusack makes just about anything he’s in worth watching.
Yankee Pedlar Inn – The Innkeepers (2011)
In between his breakout indie hit, House of the Devil, and You’re Next, mumblegore director Ti West visited the Yankee Pedlar Inn. His 2011 release, The Innkeepers, is set in the very real, historic Connecticut hotel. Just like West’s other work, The Innkeepers is a slow burn of a thriller as two hotel employees take it upon themselves to document supernatural happenings before the inn closes. In fact, The Innkeepers may be too much of a slow burn for many horror fans. Certainly, there’s some creepy moments including a fantastic scare involving a bedsheet. But the movie’s ending may leave some viewers a bit cold.
The Overlook – The Shining (1980) and Doctor Sleep (2019)
Aside from The Bates Motel, there isn’t a more famous hotel in horror movie history than The Overlook. Maybe Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation wasn’t entirely faithful to Stephen King’s novel. Nonetheless, The Shining is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Despite the mountain it had to climb, Mike Flanagan’s belated sequel, Doctor Sleep, was a worthy follow-up. There’s something about a winter setting for horror – the isolation, darkness, and eeriness of a cold, howling wind. And both The Shining and Doctor Sleep capture that feeling of isolation to varying degrees.
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