Studio: Uncork'd Entertainment
Director: Brett Donowho
Writer: T.J. Cimfel
Producer: Rick Dugdale
Stars: Chalie Howes, Johnny Hawkes, Angel McCord, Rileigh Chalmers, Andrew MacFarlane, Chelsey Reist
Five friends are stranded at an abandoned motel that is haunted by a family who suffered a tragedy there in the 1970’s.
“No Tell Motel” unintentionally does something I may not have seen before in a film. When the first victim from a group of five twenty-somethings is found dead, not a single one of her friends has any sort of meaningful emotional response at all. One girl mutters “oh my God” while another wears a concerned expression with what looks like welling tears. But no one cries, screams, or otherwise noticeably reacts. In fact, not long after, the victim’s boyfriend shares a laugh with his brother’s girlfriend before trying to kiss her. Maybe all of this could be chalked up to shock. Except that two of them had the wherewithal to pull the man who ran over their friend out of his car, carry him back to the motel, and begin the search for a first aid kit.
And that is a prime illustration of how wooden the characters are in this story. Each of the five friends caught in this haunted motel has a personal secret that, through unbelievable coincidence, is connected to the story of the family whose little girl died there. Remove the individual skeleton in each closet, however, and the five of them are nearly interchangeable. Audiences may be tired with the usual grouping of high school or college friends in these scenarios: the jock, the nerd, the slut, the virgin, etc. But the uninteresting alternatives on display here make those familiar stereotypes seem far more desirable. Or at least more entertaining.
Flat personalities apparently come with an insatiable desire to wander throughout the motel on a whim. Characters come and go, enter new rooms, forget who they were looking for and go somewhere else, and generally move around often without any motivation. They wander so far away from each other that when an entire floor caves in beneath one girl’s feet, not one person is close enough to hear it happen. Either that or this is the largest, most sprawling roadside motel ever built.
The story behind the haunting has compelling aspects, but it is presented in ways that do it a disservice. For one, the little blonde girl at the center of the mystery is too cute. White makeup and darkened eye sockets give her a deathly appearance when she would have been better served conveying a feeling of menace.
Flashback scenes gradually tell the story behind the motel’s haunting. Yet the director chose to have the characters witness these flashbacks as though they were happening directly in front of them. There is no fog filter, change in color tone, or other effect to give the impression of ghosts replaying a scene. It is strange to have the friends witness each event as if the people from the past are right there in the same room. This is a missed opportunity to convey an otherworldly feel. And like their first friend’s death, they strangely have little reaction to the fact that seemingly real people just appeared and disappeared after playing out a memory only a few feet away.
This is how the movie misses its mark in instilling any sense of eeriness. Questionable choices in how to present the scenes and move the characters from one situation to the next only draw attention to weaknesses in the script and production design.
“No Tell Motel” fails to stand out in either horror sub-genre of creepy ghost children or creepy motels. The film may be technically competent in places, but the uninteresting characters with their absurdly convenient dark secrets and the puzzling presentation make the movie uninspired and forgettable.
Review Score: 20