Filmed across two undoubtedly intense five-day periods at the disused Great White Horse Hotel in… er… Ipswich, The Haunted Hotel is a brave and ambitious portmanteau horror movie that hits the mark more often than it misses, particularly given the circumstances in which it was created. Be warned though; if you’re expecting terrifying tales of ghostly apparitions and weird hauntings then you’re likely to be disappointed. These are generally pretty tame tales delivering little more than the odd predictable jump-scare with only one instalment having the potential to unnerve or raise the odd goosebump.
The Haunted Hotel is comprised of eight short tales told, non-chronologically, across a 150 year period. Each segment is written and directed by a different name so inevitably there’s an unevenness of tone across the whole film but its structure does lend itself to a certain sense of agreeable unpredictably in terms of story content even if some of the stories themselves play out in a predictable manner. For example, no-one is likely to be surprised by the resolution of Thomas Winward’s charming ’40 Years’ in which an aging couple reunites for a romantic weekend, or Robbie Sunderland’s ‘The Contraption’, set in 1925, in which a paranormal investigator can’t quite recognise what’s right under her nose. Other stories are a bit spicier. In Daphne Fox’s ‘Watching’, Charles Dickens receives inspiration in the night from a mysterious visitation, and ‘The Writer’, written by Amy Feeley (who also directs one segment) sees a struggling author terrorised by a mysterious painting on his hotel bedroom wall. The wheels come off slightly when the film leans too far into comedy; Paul Saxton’s ‘Ghost of a Chance’ is a bit too arch for its own good despite a game Julie Walters-lite performance from Kate Cook. Best of the bunch is undoubtedly Joshua Dickinson’s ‘Housekeeping’ in which a new housemaid finds herself baffled and frustrated when her attempts to clean up one particular room are confounded when she finds it returned to its previous distressed state when she re-opens the door. Quirky, eerie, and creatively directed, ‘Housekeeping’ is only let down by a slightly annoying ambiguous ending.
The Haunted Hotel is an interesting grab-bag of tales with - hardcore horror hounds apart - something to offer for everyone and it’s far more consistently enjoyable and well-realised than we might have otherwise anticipated from a British film low on funds and high on ambition. As long as you don’t sign in expecting a five-star TripAdvisor recommendation, you’ll find that a stay at The Haunted Hotel isn’t an unpleasant experience even if it’s not necessarily one you’ll feel compelled to revisit.
The Haunted Hotel is available now on Amazon Prime Video