• Gabe Powers

Slaughter Hotel Blu-ray Review (originally published 2014)

A world-renowned institute for mentally disturbed women (note: not a hotel) – most of which are sexy and seem to be afflicted with sex addiction – is turned upside down when a black-hooded killer begins murdering the staff and patients.



Writer/director Fernando Di Leo is a cult filmmaker that a surprising number of self-proclaimed cult fans have managed to overlook. For decades, his lasting mark on Italian cinema was a series of writing gigs on Sergio Corbucci and Lucio Fulci’s spaghetti westerns (his work on Fistful of Dollars [1964] and For a Few Dollars More [1965] was uncredited). Thanks to the efforts of fans, like Quentin Tarantino, and the fine folks at Raro Video, whose early Blu-ray line was almost exclusively devoted to his work, Di Leo’s stylish and brutal brand of cinema has been given its proper due. Most aficionados will tell you that his poliziotteschi (or “Euro-crime”) movies are his masterpieces and, as a genre novice, I’m happy to take their word for it. But, before he found his groove with gangster stories, Di Leo dabbled in soft-core melodrama with Brucia, Ragazzo, Brucia (Burn, Boy, Burn, 1969) and A Wrong Way to Love (Italian: Amarsi male, 1969), then directed a pair of sleazy gialli, Naked Violence (Italian: I Ragazzi del Massacro, 1969) and Slaughter Hotel (aka: La Bestia Uccide a Sangue Freddo and Asylum Erotica, a much more appropriate title, 1971).


The sleaze factor in Italian thrillers escalated quickly following the success of Argento’s relatively chaste Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1969). Headed by filmmakers like Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, Andrea Bianchi, and, of course, Lucio Fulci, things got obscene. The plots grew more convoluted, the murder set-pieces turned bloodier, and the sex scenes pushed the boundaries as far as the Italian censors would allow – sometimes even beyond, for the sake of international distribution. It wasn’t uncommon for multiple cuts of a given film to be floating around. In the case of Slaughter Hotel, there are at least three cuts – the standard cut, complete with all of the violence and most of the nudity; the UK cut, which was trimmed to ribbons by the BBFC; and the ‘X-rated’ cut, which includes naughty insert shots during some of the masturbation and lesbian sex scenes. I usually champion uncut releases, but the close-ups of fondled lady-parts were clearly added after the fact with unconvincing body doubles, so it’s pretty distracting. Still, given the mélange of vulgarity pumping throughout the film, the inserts don’t really feel out of place.



More entertaining than the sex and violence, however, are Di Leo’s vulgar attempts at artistry. Every single scene is overrun with wacky angles, dramatic widescreen framing, weirdly-timed crash zooms, and Amedeo Giomini’s hyperactive editing. In this universe, a simple croquet game is given the same visual flash as an extended murder sequence. Some viewers may find the frenetic filmmaking overwrought and exhausting, but comedically over-stylized, crass imagery is a vital component to this brand of Italian thriller, more so than even the slaughter scenes and intricate mysteries. In this case, the plot – which is basically a set-up for a porno that never happens and filled with psychosexual gibberish and a murderous subplot that never really goes anywhere – is frustratingly uninteresting, so the style becomes the substance and carries the movie along. Di Leo isn’t an artist on par with his contemporaries, but what he lacks in skill he makes up for in enthusiasm. The killer’s final murder(s) and demise are truly spectacular trash filmmaking.



Video

Slaughter Hotel was previously released on PAL DVD in Italy by Raro and on NTSC DVD by Media Blasters, under their Shriek Show imprint. According to their Facebook page, Media Blasters is still in business, but it’s safe to say that Shriek Show is dead, which might not be the worst news for some of their catalogue titles. Despite releasing a veritable treasure trove of must-own Italian horror DVDs, their Blu-ray output was very disappointing. Raro’s Blu-ray reputation is better and Slaughter Hotel fits in nicely with their other Di Leo releases. This 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer shows minor signs of CRT machine noise (similar to the kind that marred Blue Underground and Arrow’s early Italian horror releases) and what appear to be DNR effects (once again, grain levels are somewhat unnatural and some of the smoother gradations are a bit lumpy), but is otherwise a substantial upgrade. Elements are well-separated and textures are complex without any notable edge haloes. The color quality is much more vivid than the slightly washy DVD, including searing reds, smooth blues, natural skin tones, and lush greens. The gamma/contrast levels seem accurate for type. The brighter daylight images do feature some over-cooked white levels, but blacks are consistent and strong without crushing finer details.


Audio

Raro has included both the original mono Italian and English dubs in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, rather than PCM. This time, the English track is notably stronger in terms of clarity, volume, and depth of sound. Silvano Spadaccino’s eclectic and eccentric score features more smooth low-end and complex noise, and the effects/dialogue tend to blend together more naturally. The Italian track has louder dialogue that falls victim to more high-end distortion and crackle. However, the English track does include some audio drop-out where some of the original tracks appear to have been lost. This is a huge problem during the crossbow murder towards the end of the film. From the 1:17:01 mark to the 1:18:16, then again from 1:27:57 to 1:28:18, there is zero sound on the English dub.



Extras

  • Lady Frankenstein’s Memoirs (18:50, SD) – An interview with actress Rosalba Neri about her career in Italian exploitation.

  • Asylum of Fear (13:50, SD) – A behind-the-scenes discussion with Neri and director Di Leo, and composer Silvano Spadaccino.

  • Deleted scenes from the French version of the film (2:20, HD) – These are, unsurprisingly, mostly sex scenes, but were not included with the final Blu-ray cut due to their image quality.


The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Full-sized versions can (currently) only be accessed by right-clicking/ctrl-clicking the images and opening them in a new window/tab. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

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