21 July 2012 | jrd_73
Decent, Slow Burning Thriller
Pensione Paura (Fear Hotel on the print I saw) is a decent, slow-burning thriller.
Set toward the end of WWII, Leonora Fani plays Rosa, a girl living in a hotel owned by her mother. Her father is away in the war and Rosa writes letters she cannot send to him. The hotel's guests are a strange and unlikeable group hiding out from the war. There is a pimp with his two prostitutes, a widower with an unhealthy fixation on Rosa, an older rich woman with a younger lover named Rudolph (Luc Merenda). This gigolo has his eyes on Rosa. In addition, hidden away in an upstairs room is the lover of Rosa's mother. He deserted the war and is rumored to have caused some tragedy to his fellow soldiers. Right from the beginning, there is a sexual tension between these guests and Rosa. Then, Rosa's mother dies in an accident. Rosa is left alone to run the hotel with only one drunken, unhelpful servant. The viewer knows something bad is going to happen. Further suspense comes with the arrival of two last guests, both men dressed in black, one carrying a switchblade. Both have the look of professional killers. Have they came for the lover hidden away or for some other reason?
Fear Hotel does a surprisingly good job at building a tense atmosphere. Little happens for most of the movie but, thanks to the actors and the evocative cinematography, the viewer keeps watching. However, there are some problems. The film's attempt to become a murder mystery in the last third does not work. The finale, while appropriately grim, has a denouncement that did not work for this viewer.
Having acknowledged these, Fear Hotel was better than expected. Leonora Fani, the attractive star of Kyra (aka House by the Edge of the Lake), was the reason I watched Fear Hotel. In addition to her physical charms, Fani convinces as an innocent teenager, even though she was in her early twenties at the time of filming.