Hotel Inferno (DVD)
Directed by Giulio De Santi
Distributed by Necrostorm
Billed as the first splatter film to take place entirely from the first person perspective, Italian indie grue merchants Necrostorm make a live-action nod to the world of video games with Hotel Inferno. Taking place entirely from the point of view of killer for hire Frank Zimosa, Hotel Inferno sees the audience's avatar, under the employment of the mysterious Jorge Mistandria, check in to a hotel in order to begin his newest assignment. There's he's given specific details of his targets and the method by which they should be despatched: Only use the weapons provided, smash the skull and remove the brain, then cut them open and remove their guts – in that order. No guns are permitted, and he must under no circumstances allow his targets to speak.
Within moments of the killing starting, our protagonist has, of course, fucked things up – shooting his second target after listening to his exclamations that all is not as it seems. Upon this mess-up, an inhuman scream rattles the walls of the hotel and a less-than-happy Mistandria informs his hitman that the job is not complete: he is destined to remain under the employment of the hotel indefinitely. This not being part of the terms of contract, our murderous view to the world sets about trying to escape from the hotel, pursued on all sides by Mistandria's gruesomely disfigured henchmen and, finally, the ancient evil at the root of the whole affair.
Anyone familiar with Necrostorm's previous feature output (Adam Chaplin and Taeter City) will know exactly what they're in for here: balls-to-the-wall splatter. Focusing on the story elements for a moment, Hotel Inferno generally fails, with some atrociously delivered dialogue via voiceover from leading man Bourton – sounding akin to an inexperienced Jason Statham providing voiceover for a low-rent video game circa 1996. Once it settles into its stride, however, the video game parallel begins to merge very well indeed, giving Hotel Inferno much more critical leeway than a less recklessly energetic film could conceivably be given.
Once the action gets going, it rarely lets up as encounter after encounter with henchmen in varying degrees of mutation befall us, all presented with a constant dose of adrenaline and some fantastically sharp editing gluing it all together. The first physical fight sequence feels lifted straight from Xbox 360 launch title "Condemned: Criminal Origins", carrying the same notion of pipe-swinging weight and crunching impact that made said title so successful in its player immersion. As with their previous films, Necrostorm's focus here is the gore and once again they deliver in spades with a breathless assault of smashed heads, dismemberment, shotgun decapitations and screen-coating displays of almost every kind of bodily damage one could imagine. Think a feature length edition of 2005's Doom first-person sequence by way of early Peter Jackson, and you're getting somewhere. With such a focus on the bloody mayhem, the delivery of that goal is perhaps the only fair terms on which to judge Hotel Inferno, and it's brought to life remarkably well for what is a small, independent studio. While the editing is occasionally disjointed in terms of consistency of physical character positioning and snapping in for an extreme gore close-up, for the most part it's notably fluid – regularly impressive, even; budding editors would do well to take a look at just how the folks at Necrostorm manage to create such repulsively realistic depictions of extreme violence through the magic of knife-edge cuts.
Hotel Inferno does run out of steam long before it ends, leaving the audience to battle through two almost identical sections of horrendously-acted exposition (with the notable exception of Michael Howe's enigmatic turn as the unseen Jorge Misandria), though in true video game style the introduction of the big bad 'final boss' is, quite literally, a blast. The narrative failings are likely to have those unfamiliar with the studio's previous work, and those looking for more than just a gore-bathed good time, reaching for the stop button very quickly; for those accustomed to what Necrostorm have to offer, Hotel Inferno is consistent with their style of filmmaking – even if it doesn't manage to keep the story together quite as successfully as their previous output. It won't be winning any new converts to the Necrostorm fold, but for those willing to take it on a less demanding level and just enjoy the splatter show, Hotel Inferno will make for a lively night in.
In terms of special features, FXS Tutorial gives a brief but interesting look at the methods behind the CGI-enhanced (and, in places, completely digital) splatter that populates almost every minute of Hotel Inferno. Effects aficionados will definitely want to check it out – heck, so will anybody who admires the low-budget ingenuity of the Necrostorm crew when it comes to extreme gore (even if it does go some way towards pointing out a few of the flaws in the more extravagant sequences). Fun at Work displays just over a minute of outtakes and behind-the-scenes tomfoolery, while The Rite HD offers a full-screen, uninterrupted look at the seriously gruesome throat slitting/head removal that opens the film and is glimpsed by the protagonist later on. Director Giulio De Santi lends his voice to a director's commentary, which makes for good listening (if somewhat overly aggrandising of the film itelf), and the full soundtrack can also be played track by track. Nestled on the disc, also, is an archive file containing wallpapers and screensavers for PC.
Inside the box, Necrostorm don't skimp on the goods either for this Collector's Edition – we get two different posters signed by director Giulio De Santi and/or special effects artist David Lopez; a selection of cards featuring gory stills from the flick, and a Hotel Inferno branded cigarette lighter with integrated bottle opener – just the thing you need to get yourself in the mood to enjoy what can be a frequently uneven and disjointed effort, yet one rendered no less ambitious, exuberant and gorily satisfying despite its shortcomings. Now that's a package truly worthy of admiration considering its fiercely independent roots.
3 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5