MARCH 28, 2013
Every Thursday, landscapers come and drown out everything for about three hours, and if I have the morning off that's when I'd be watching my daily horror movie. So I try to stick to foreign films when that happens, because I'll be reading anyway and thus don't mind if I can't actually hear a few lines, rather than keep turning up the volume and hoping that I don't blow out my speakers. And I have had my eye on The Hotel!! for a while now, as it was from Thailand but sounded more like a slasher movie, which could be interesting (plus it was 108 minutes, making it a tough sell), so I made today "the day" as, well, I won't have to worry about the landscapers for an obligatory horror movie on Thursdays anymore.
Sadly, the slasher element only lasts for the first couple of kills; the film switches gears and focuses more on typical ghostly revenge plotting, with the kills taking on a more ridiculous, Final Destination type of approach - one guy is pinned down by shards of glass before a final one lops off his head, a far cry from the simple stabbing that had occurred 20 minutes or so before. The ghost story isn't bad, but as a slasher fan, AND as someone who has seen enough pissed off Asian ghosts to last a lifetime, I wish it didn't take such a familiar route to tell its story of a bunch of siblings who inherit a hotel and then try to figure out what's going on when guests and renovators start dropping like flies shortly thereafter. Maybe it's because the You're Next trailer just hit today (at long last!) but I was kind of into the idea of someone targeting a family for some reason to be revealed, with lots of slashing, but no - we actually find out who the bad guy is at like the halfway point.
And that's problematic, because even if you're way more excited about ghosts than slashers, the movie really starts to drag in the 2nd half, with an endless flashback scene explaining why he's so pissed off and an overlong, action-lite finale where the ghost makes his case to the woman he still loves. There's also a silly bit where the survivors are flushed out to the ocean as the hotel crumbles, which is really pushing things. I don't know what I like less - 70 minute movies that are stretched to 80 with credits and other filler, or 90 minute movies that are stretched to 108 by dragging their damn heels and not knowing when to quit.
There's also some jarring tonal shifts, particularly surrounding a cop who is investigating one of the earliest murders and sticks around for a while. He acts all goofy at times, but other times he feels like he can almost be the movie's hero (shades of The Guard Post), so I never knew what to make of him. There's one brother (or cousin? I couldn't quite get a grasp on the family tree) who is introduced as the idiot they all love to tease, but then he never displays much of that behavior again. At times it felt like a Dark Shadows movie, where there were all these characters fighting for screentime because they were important and the fans would be mad if they weren't there, except as far as I know The Hotel!! is a standalone movie.
Oh, the exclamation points. Only one appears on the poster, but IMDb and the on-screen subtitle give us two, and I'll be damned if I can explain either of them. I can assume the second one on the movie was just a subtitling error, because there are plenty of those - verb tenses and the like are atrocious, and sometimes words are just skipped entirely; I think he means "hotels" when a character says "because Lots of large have been build there", though why he felt the need to capitalize "Lots" is still a mystery. Bad subtitles always confuse me - someone's being paid for this, right? Can't they find someone who can understand both languages to do it, instead of handing a guy the script and hoping his word for word translation gets the gist of it? It's fine for a Hong Kong movie consisting primarily of guys punching and kicking each other, but when it's a plot/character driven film like this, it'd be nice if they could put a little more effort into it.
For all its problems though, I will defend it for one bit at around the halfway point, when a cat suddenly lands on the table between a few characters in the middle of a discussion. It's identical to 2895 other cat scares you've seen, but one guy demands an explanation - he first points out that no one owns a cat, and when that is explained by the cop (he suggests one of the renovators brought it with him), another guy backs him up, pointing out that there's no tree near the window for the cat to have jumped from. In all these years, I think the only other cat gag that had this much thought put into it was the intentional spoof of such things on Community, which doesn't count. But sadly it's also what kicks the ghost story into full gear, so it's also the beginning of the end of my enjoyment of the movie. Oh well. I've seen worse, but I'm not surprised it's so obscure (zero user reviews/board posts, and only a single external review - in German! - on the IMDb), either.
What say you?