Why would anyone ever stay at a place called “Slaughter Hotel?” That’s totally fake.
If you have any curiosity about checking out the 1971 Italian giallo Slaughter Hotel (aka La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, aka Asylum Erotica), it’s important that you know this first: it does not take place at a hotel. That title is very misleading. There is some slaughtering, though, so chalk the title up to more of a half-truth.
There’s a killer on the loose at an asylum for women. It’s not just any asylum, either; it’s the most sexed-up asylum in history, with patients locked up because they’re nymphomaniacs and female nurses unable to keep their hands off their charges. Overseeing the hospital is Dr. Francis Clay (Klaus Kinski, Crawlspace), the most normal and boring Klaus Kinski character in history.
I’ll say this for Slaughter Hotel (again, not a hotel): the opening moments had me. It’s an endlessly long sequence of the movie’s masked killer stalking someone, all set to Silvano Spadaccino’s haunting score. I was sure I was in for a new and undiscovered classic of the giallo genre. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill after that. Director and co-writer Fernando Di Leo (he of Shoot First, Die Later fame) doesn’t appear to be interested in making much of a horror film, and instead makes Slaughter Hotel into imitation Jess Franco — all cheap and sleazy European “eroticism.” There are sex scenes that go on forever and just about every actress in the film appears nude for long periods of time. Beautiful as they are, it grows tiresome. The movie gets more graphic as it goes on, too, to the point where by the end it’s just shy of a hardcore film.
I’m no prude. I recognize that liberal amounts of sex and violence are staples of giallo films. There is very little violence in Slaughter Hotel, as the movie doesn’t seem all that interested in its own central mystery. There is plenty of sex, though, and Di Leo pads the sequences like he’s trying to reach a running time of 90 minutes but has less than half of that length of actual story footage. The movie is slower than slow, and not in a “moody” way. Just dull. It roars to life from time to time, usually when the killer strikes. Even Klaus Kinski doesn’t bring much life to it, as he has neither a part to play nor a clear interest in delivering his usual brand of over-the-top crazy. There’s about 30 minutes of a good giallo movie here stretched out to an interminable hour and a half.
Raro Video continues their trend of frustrating HD releases of cult Italian films. On the one hand, it’s great that they’re getting released at all; on the other, the video and audio on many of the releases are inconsistent and problematic. Slaughter Hotel is no different. The 2.35:1 1080p image is clean in a way I suspect the movie never has been before, but in removing damage and debris the master has digitally scrubbed things too much. The image lacks texture, and in some sequences seems either unrestored or from a different source. It’s all over the place. The audio is handled better, with lossless stereo tracks in both the original Italian and dubbed in English. Though the source audio is sometimes a choppy mess, the disc presents it faithfully and without any real problems.
In the supplemental department, there’s a 30-minute making-of documentary called “Asylum of Fear” (a much more accurate title than Slaughter Hotel), an interview with actress Rosalba Neri covering not just this film but her entire body of work (in Italian with English subtitles) and a few minutes of “uncensored” cut material from the French version of the movie, which mostly amounts to some longer sex scenes but nothing more graphic than what’s in the finished movie.
As I have fallen deeper and deeper in love with Italian exploitation cinema in recent years, Fernando Di Leo is a filmmaker whose work I have enjoyed getting to know. Unfortunately, Slaughter Hotel lacks the energy and kick of his better efforts. There are too many good giallo movies to waste time on this one.