Charles Band has been in the movie game for four decades now. From his first films in the ‘70s and then via Empire and the various Full Moon incarnations he’s been churning out horror, fantasy and sci-fi pictures of varying quality at an impressive rate. Cult hits like the Trancers and Puppet Master series, amongst many others, have helped Band build quite a reputation. Following on from launching his Delirium magazine that focusses on genre entertainment, there’s also a Full Moon streaming channel (at least in America). Ravenwolf Towers is a 7-part series directed and produced by Band that’s going to be airing initially there, but if we know Band it’ll be everywhere before you know it.
Described as a cross between Jack Hill’s bonkers Spider Baby and the classic daytime soap Dark Shadows, it’s about a hotel in Hollywood that once was home to impossible glamour and is now dilapidated and home to the truly impossible: vanishing guests, mad doctors, monsters and sinister goings-on. Into this strange world steps new assistant manager Jake. He figures out pretty quickly that things are not as they first appear at his new job. Jake is also transfixed by a beautiful young woman who has never been out of the hotel. Mystery established, we ride along with Jake as events unravel, with him our ‘normal’ lead and the surrogate for our exploration of the hotel.
This being Charles Band, none of it is really done seriously. There’s plenty of arch humour and the distinct possibility that he really knows it’s a bit rubbish. There’s resolutely nothing new character or plot-wise, with the haunted hotel and odd guests familiar riffs on all kinds of films and classic stories. There’s also a fair amount of nudity, sex and gory violence. It’s cheesy stuff, very much a ‘throw it all at the wall and find out what sticks’ approach, with some iffy acting and a general feel of trying too hard about it.
The thing is, however, everything we just pointed out could arguably be said about Ryan Murphy’s high-end FX series American Horror Story. If any part of this series was ‘inspired’ by that show it wouldn’t be a surprise. Band is just as much businessman as creative, after all. That being the case, Ravenwolf Towers bears serious comparison with the fifth series of AHS, Hotel. So how does it stack up against its bigger, pricier, more well-known competition? Not bad, actually. This first episode is cheesy and silly, and rips off any number of similar stories, including inevitably and understandably Band's own. But it’s also huge fun if you're in the mood. Hopefully it will continue that way.
Don’t go in expecting American Horror Story or anything original, but do expect a good time for the discerning, and honestly not-so-discerning horror fan. You’ll probably enjoy it. We did.