Ayn Ruymen plays Cheryl, a disturbed young woman who just arrived in LA with her best friend. After a quarrel, she leaves her to live at a hotel building owned by her long-estranged aunt. Soon she realizes this hotel is filled with weird guests and bizarre occurrences, like a priest who likes to dress in leather-gear, a crazy old lady, and a rather odd-acting photographer. When she finds out about the disappearance of a young lady named Alice, a model who used to live in Chery’s room, things get way weirder than she could ever hope for.
I am so sad that I got to see this now instead of when I was younger. I’ve always had a soft spot for Paul Bartel. He’s the kind of guy that you’d see in movies and shout “hey, it’s THAT guy!” Piranha, White Dog, Frankenweenie, Gremlins 2, The Usual Suspects, these and in many others he added a lot of humor and charm to his small but memorable roles. However, I had no idea he was a director, and what a director! After discovering he was the guy who directed Death Race 2000, I found out about Eating Raoul, one of my favorite black comedies, and now I watch this, a film that just blew my mind. Imagine watching Polanski’s The Tenant, only with weirder characters and less pretentions (and no Polanski acting in drag). It has a lot of things in common with The Shining, as a character wanders through long hallways and rooms finding different and weirder things.
Bartel also challenges us with what we, as audiences, expect from a horror film. In the third act, when we’re at our highest suspense point and ready to see the girl fight her way out of the weirdness, Bartel chooses to fuck with us by cutting away to the police entering the place and witnessing the aftermath of what happened. While some of you may say “gee, that doesn’t make me wanna see this!”, well don’t! What comes next is one of the greatest WTF moments in 70’s horror cinema, and for that, Mr. Paul Bartel, I salute you. One of the most underrated movies of all time.
If you want more Paul Bartel, I recommend you check out his other great films, Death Race 2000, Eating Raoul, Lust In The Dust and Scenes From A Class Struggle In Beverly Hills.