‘Country of Hotels‘, directed by Julio Maria Martino, is an ambitious attempt to delve into the realms of the supernatural and the haunting aspects of everyday life. Drawing inspiration from films that portray ordinary settings as metaphysical purgatories, Martino’s film aims to captivate audiences with its atmospheric storytelling and mysterious plot.
However, despite its potential, the film falls short of its lofty aspirations, leaving viewers with a sense of unfulfilled promise and confusion.
One of the film’s strengths lies in its atmospheric portrayal of haunted hotel rooms. Martino successfully creates an eerie ambience, with the spectre of past tragedies permeating the very fabric of the spaces portrayed on screen. The set design, featuring odd patterns and mid-century aesthetics, effectively adds to the unsettling atmosphere. Furthermore, the slow camera movements and ambient noise contribute to a sense of discomfort, emphasizing the characters’ experiences in these haunted environments.
In terms of performances, the film does have its standout moments. Adam Leese delivers a commendable portrayal of Pauly, the disillusioned systems support specialist who becomes a focal point of the narrative. Leese effectively captures Pauly‘s descent into madness, showcasing the character’s internal struggle and adding depth to an otherwise fragmented storyline. Siobhan Hewlett also deserves credit for her portrayal of Brenda, infusing her character with a sense of vulnerability and turmoil in the face of a crumbling relationship.
The film’s attempt to explore the underbelly of American society and the isolating nature of modern existence is commendable. These thematic elements offer a glimmer of promise, suggesting a deeper commentary on societal issues. But that deeper commentary is never explored or experienced in this film.
Country of Hotels also suffers from several significant weaknesses that hinder its overall impact. One of the film’s most glaring flaws is its confusing and disjointed storytelling. For a greater part of the first half of the film, you struggle to fully grasp what is happening. The narrative unfolds as a series of interconnected stories, but the lack of a cohesive arc undermines the film’s ability to engage and hold the audience’s attention. Even with your full focus and attention, it is difficult to immediately establish who is what and why they are relevant to the story. The initial tales, such as Brenda’s struggles and Pauly’s descent, show promise, but the film crumbles in its final act, leaving the viewers more puzzled and disconnected from the story.
Furthermore, the film’s desire to be more than it is becomes its downfall. Martino attempts to introduce supernatural elements and explore abstract concepts, but the execution falls flat. The ambiguity and lack of resolution leave the audience with unanswered questions and a sense of frustration. Instead of enhancing the film’s mysterious atmosphere, these elements only serve to confuse and alienate viewers, detracting from the potential impact of the narrative.
The film’s pacing also poses a challenge, with moments of sluggishness that test the patience of the audience. While slow pacing can enhance the tension and create anticipation, Country of Hotels struggles to strike a balance, resulting in stretches of monotony that disrupt the overall flow of the story.
I would rate this 5/10.
Despite its flaws, this film demonstrates some glimpses of potential. The atmospheric set design, strong performances, and thematic exploration hint at a captivating tale waiting to be fully realized. However, the film’s convoluted storytelling, unresolved plotlines, and attempts at abstract symbolism ultimately hinder its ability to leave a lasting impression.
In the end, it simply falls short of its lofty ambitions. It struggles to find a cohesive narrative structure and fails to deliver on the promise of its intriguing premise. Perhaps it is one of those films that requires a multiple watch to fully understand and appreciate. Nonetheless do give it a chance.
Country of Hotels is available on various digital platforms including TUBI, KINGS OF HORROR and AMAZON.