`The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (of course) and `Death Trap' (less obvious already) are the only two films Tobe Hooper should be really remembered for as a horror director. They both are raw and chilling explorations of the angry rural America. The location of this film looks like a giant swampy area, homed by underdeveloped perverted rednecks and other freaks of society. Neville Brand terrifically portrays Judd, the isolated owner of the Starlight Hotel. Judd suffers a bit from the incapability to communicate with people and the guests at his hotel are doomed to die as soon as they enter his facility. He also has a pet crocodile swimming underneath the porch of his hotel, which is a pretty convenient method to get rid of human leftovers
A poor, rejected prostitute is the first to undergo Judd's murderous rituals. Her relatives soon come to search for her and are doomed as well. In the meantime, the croc feeds on some more unfortunate by passers. Although I regard this as Hooper's second best film, it doesn't come close to the power of TCM
Which kind of gives you an idea of how great I think TCM was! The settings and photography of Horror Hotel (one of the film's a.k.a's) look nasty and utterly cheap. Just as it did in TCM, this actually increases the macabre atmosphere and you constantly feel something wicked is about to happen. The characters although pretty imaginative aren't as convincing as the Sawyer family but they too seem to come running straight out of a freakshow as well! There's Judd of course, but also a very memorable Robert Englund who plays a retarded yokel with an obsession for anal sex. The scream-queen prototype Marilyn Burns returns as well before disappearing into actress-oblivion forever. The crocodile as well as most other horror scenery looks really cheap, but to me, this only increases the trash-fun value of this film. Highly recommended viewing as far as I'm concerned.