Anthology-style films are nothing if not a mixed bag when it comes to horror. When they’re done well, they can be positively iconic. (Think classics like Twilight Zone: The Movie, Trick r Treat, or V/H/S.) Bad ones, on the other hand, can feel like absolute torture to sit through. Then there are those that are frustratingly inconsistent, marrying vital segments with weak ones that were probably better off left on the cutting room floor.
The Haunted Hotel is a new, very British take on the horror anthology, bringing together multiple directors to chronicle 150 years at the Great White Horse Hotel throughout eight different segments. As the title would suggest, the Great White Horse is a mysterious location that may or may not house ghosts and other supernatural entities. All of the segments address this possibility in different ways via a variety of different tones, styles, character tropes, and storytelling devices. But is The Haunted Hotel actually worth a second look, or are you better off checking in somewhere else?
If you’re thinking eight segments sound like a lot for an anthology film, you’re not wrong. However, the team behind The Haunted Hotel really manage to make it work. Splitting the 95-minute film up into more segments challenged each director involved to tell a solid story in record time, and it paid off. Most anthology films are inconsistent at best, containing at least some sections you simply suffer through the hopes of the next one being meatier. However, Hotel is an anomaly in that all of the tales are strong, engaging, and enjoyable.
They also cover a delightful array of moods and approaches as a collective. For instance, Amy L. Feeley’s “The Contraption” introduces the viewer to the curiosities of jazz-age ghost hunting technology, while “Ghost of a Chance” transports you to the Great White Horse as it was in the freedom-loving ’60s – a haunted tourist attraction. Then, Joshua Dickinson directs the engaging “Housekeeping,” the story of Maisie the housekeeper and her absolute refusal to let a persistent ghost get the better of her.
Additional segments spirit the viewer through different periods, including the ’80s, the ’50s, and even the modern day. In the process, you’re introduced to an entire parade of colorful characters – everyone from married couples on holiday to seedy gangsters looking to commit dark deeds. The one constant is the hotel, and it’s quite a treat to experience how drastically it changes as the stories take you from decade to decade. However, each of the segments is enjoyable on its own, as well – a real rarity for this type of film.
The Haunted Hotel has many strengths, but its wry humor is perhaps its most significant. Yes, there are a few thrills, chills, and scares here that are sure to please diehard horror fans. But the snappiness tempers the suspense perfectly in a beautiful way that’s distinctly British. The production design is also noteworthy, especially when paired with gorgeous costumes and lush set dressings that pay solid homage to each time period represented. It gives the hotel a personality and the film a cohesive, tactile quality that complements the subject matter perfectly. The Haunted Hotel was meant to showcase some of the Suffolk area’s best and brightest filmmakers, and it’s certainly succeeded in that regard. It’s also just a plain enjoyable film in and of itself – fun, energetic, creative, and packed with just the right amount of emotion. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves anthology films, British cinema, cunningly told ghost stories, or all of the above.