Slaughter Hotel is also known as La bestia uccide a sangue freddo (Cold-Blooded Beast) or Asylum Erotica, both of which are slightly less misleading titles for Fernando Di Leo’s film. Slaughter Hotel is not set in a hotel, but a women’s asylum run by some ineffectual doctors that can’t seem to cure many of their patients besides one. Perhaps it’s because they keep weaponry on the walls including a torture device, or maybe because the nurses are corrupting factors; or maybe it’s because Klaus Kinski, as Dr. Francis Clay, has a particularly ferocious head of hair (quite possibly the cold-blooded beast of the title). Whatever the case, Di Leo’s women-in-asylum story is much more interested in sexual deviance than it is in exploring significant themes of mental illness, so for all intents and purposes the setting matters little besides getting a bunch of women together to get naked and minced.
Di Leo follows a very non-linear path in terms of story; there really isn’t a primary character, nor is there an impetus for Slaughter Hotel‘s murders. Instead, the film offers up a few different females with various mental issues, including Anne’s (Rosalba Neri) nymphomania and Ruth’s (Gioia Desideri) murderous intent, and switches on and off between them throughout the film. Di Leo at least follows some semblance of a journey, attempting to showcase each of the girls in various stages of mental illness; it’s clear they’re struggling to cope with their afflictions, unaided by Dr. Clay since he’s so enraptured with Cheryl Hume (Margaret Lee) instead. However, Di Leo doesn’t go any deeper than a surface look at their illness. Instead, he’d rather use that mental problem to get the girls undressed and, later, violently killed.
Slaughter Hotel is not a great film, nor does it purport to be one. It’s not like Di Leo is attempting to stuff a lot of meaning into a film that can’t support it; he’s not even attempting that, but looking for ways to get so softcore porn into the picture. There’s a lot of nudity that Slaughter Hotel keeps coming back to – Di Leo likes to reuse his shots in dream sequences (some of them added into the English dub version of the film by Raro without sound) – much of it inexplicable and unsupported by the storyline. Mara (Jane Garret) and the nurse Helen (Monica Strebel) get a lesbian tryst going that, while adding to the body and labia counts, feels tangential to the “plot” of the film.
This is in keeping with Di Leo’s surreal, extended footage. Slaughter Hotel‘s scenes are lengthy and repetitious, perhaps highlighting the routine life of the mental asylum. But the potential thematic meaning behind these long takes doesn’t make up for the time that could have been spent focusing a bit more on the killer that plagues the asylum, because that mystery is often unexplored throughout the film. Di Leo wants to combine murder and sex and an interesting setting like Mario Bava did in Blood and Black Lace, but instead Slaughter Hotel becomes a skin flick that happens to have a masked murderer marauding around the premises at certain pivotal moments.
Unlike gialli, Slaughter Hotel doesn’t offer a satisfactory reason behind the murders. It is about love, not about the act of murder, or so says the characters attempting to quickly recount the motive behind the killings. But it certainly feels like chaos instead of controlled order, a murderer who only lacks motive because Di Leo fails to adequately provide one. Slaughter Hotel becomes the epitome of exploitation, using a plot about mental illness and sexually-tinged murders only to get its actresses naked. It might titillate, but if deeper meaning is what you’re looking for, there’s no use staying in this hotel.
Raro has again done a good job preserving quality from this 35mm transfer. Included is both the English dub and the original Italian with English subtitles; for this review I watched the English dub, which did have a few issues with muffled audio that did not detract too much from the viewing experience. Raro has also added some additional scenes cut from some editions of the film; in the English dub, these are silent, which is sort of jarring during the surreal dream scenes. In the Italian subbed version, these have the original dialogue. There is some fuzz during outdoor sequences but otherwise this is a great-looking transfer (barring a few scenes added in).
Raro has included a few special features, including two featurettes from 2004. One interviews Rosalba Neri about her work not just with Slaughter Hotel but other films in the Italian film industry (including her nude stuff), and the second one interviews Fernando Di Leo for the majority of the piece, where he really picks apart his own film, in his own words labeling it something of an embarrassment necessitated by the impact and critical success of Dario Argento’s work. A two-minute set of deleted scenes is also included.