FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Hotel Poseidon’ Is As Deep As A Kiddie Pool

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Hotel Poseidon

Hotel Poseidon is a Belgian-language horror film written and directed by Stefan Lernous. In a rotting and dilapidated hotel, Dave (Tom Vermeir) moves through life rather passively. His mother (Tania Van der Sanden) verbally lambasts him. His hotel hasn’t had a customer in years. Things change when a mysterious woman named Nora (Anneke Sluiters) arrives at the hotel and establishes a rapport with Dave. Madness soon descends upon the hotel as Dave deals with a parade of escalating guests and some genuinely surreal and disturbing occurrences.

This marks Lernous’ feature film debut after years of working with the theater troupe Abattoir Fermé, and the roots of improv theater can definitely be felt in the way the film is structured. There are different sequences that swing from funny (Dave putting on his headphones to filter out the sound of his mother having sex with a visitor is a decent running gag) to disturbing (two men are shown chopping up a dead body and putting its pieces in the blender.) And each one of these sequences has its own visual flair, thanks to some truly inventive production design. The layout of the hotel features a sickly green color reminiscent of seawater, with mold on the walls and peeling wallpaper; the hallways bear a blood-red carpet that’s similar to the Overlook in The Shining. A collection of knick-knacks even spell out the film’s title.

The sound design is also impressive and lends itself well to the horror aspects of the film. The sound of a creaking elevator is present throughout the film, punctuating scenes where you least expect it and weaving into the score in a way that will set viewers’ nerves on edge. A sequence toward the end also features a decided lack of sound, as Dave ends up being trapped in a glass cage. Any horror fan can tell you that sound plays a large part in setting the mood for scares, and this film is a solid example of that principle.

For all of its immaculate set and sound design, Hotel Poseidon fails to endear the audience to its character and doesn’t have a central theme to express through said character or the genre it’s set in. Vermeir’s performance as Dave hints at great tragedy; a series of flashbacks imply that he saw his father drown, and he is clearly attracted to Nora while being trapped in a shell of anxiety. I just wish the film would have expanded on that; the hotel slowly decaying and transforming into a horror show could have reflected Dave’s similarly deteriorating mental state. I’ve always said that the mark of a good story has characters that the audience gets invested in. Fellow Fantasia Fest entry King Knight and The Green Knight both lived up to this by mixing surreal imagery with a journey that led to their respective lead characters coming to terms with their life and things they needed to change; had this film done the same, it would be more than a set of pretty images.

Hotel Poseidon is a clear example of what happens when a director is more in love with the visual aspect of their film than the story, mistaking surreal images for actual characters and story. Looks can only take you so far; a good film should have depth, and this one happens to be as deep as the end of a kiddie pool.

Hotel Poseidon premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

 


Hotel Poseidon
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Hotel Poseidon is a clear example of what happens when a director is more in love with the visual aspect of their film than the story, mistaking surreal images for actual characters and story. Looks can only take you so far; a good film should have depth, and this one happens to be as deep as the end of a kiddie pool.