February 8, 2011

Road Trip Philosophy - My Top Three Horror Movies about Hotel Rooms

Anyone who has been on a long-distance road trip knows the feeling - you've been driving too long, it's gotten dark, you're bleary-eyed, and one more cup of coffee just won't do the trick. It's time to stop and get a hotel room for the night so you can get back on the road in the morning. You start scanning the sides of the road for a sign or maybe you wake up a passenger to look one up on a map or a GPS device. But once you find the motel, the inevitable happens - you remember that shower scene in "Psycho." Hollywood has played on the fears of late night road travelers when they are forced to stop for a night for decades. And here is my list of my top three horror movies that make me think twice about stopping for a motel room on the road (or a hotel with a haunted history).

1. Psycho

The first time I saw "Psycho" was by accident. I was at Universal Pictures Studios with my family and we were on a ride showing how some of the most famous scenes in movies were made. One was the infamous shower scene in "Psycho". My sister and I were both very young, I think I must have been about ten and she was around eight. Of course, we were promptly scarred for life after seeing that scene. For years, we were terrified about showers. It would be many, many years before I would come to love this movie and other great Hitchcock classics (I am also particularly fond of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"). But that is the enduring power of "Psycho". Young or old, this film burrows in your brain and plants a fear that stays with you the rest of your life - and makes you think twice about taking a shower in a motel.

2. Identity

A raging storm traps a group of complete strangers in a motel, but they have more to fear from the deranged killer among them then the nasty weather. As their numbers start to dwindle, they turn on each other to try and figure out who the killer is. All the while we know there is a psychotic killer being examined before he is to be executed for grisly murders in the hotel. It is a psychological thriller, complete with twists and turns that make you question who is the killer, who is real, and what exactly is going on. This film takes the traditional archetype - people trapped in a strange motel - and turns it on its head. Complete with a twist ending that will make you yell, "What just happened?!"

3. The Shining

It's not really about a motel and it's not about travelers forced to stop for the night, but you can't make a list of top horror movies involving motels or hotels and not include "The Shining"! That's some kind of sacrilege to the movie gods. Stanley Kubrick has made some of the most enduring films in cinema - from "Dr. Strangelove" to "Full Metal Jacket". But none are as truly terrifying as "The Shining". A writer takes his family to a secluded hotel for the winter so he can work as a caretaker and write. But then things start happening. Their son seems to be the only one with any real awareness of just how bad things are going to be, as the father begins to slip into madness under the influence of the hotel. It is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Scratch that. One of the greatest films ever made. "Heeeere's, Johnny!"


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