No Tell Motel (2012)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #161

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 9 October 2012 (USA)
Sub-Genre:  Supernatural
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $3,000,000
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: Brett Donowho
Producer: Rick Dugdale
Screenplay: T.J. Cimfel
Special Effects: Tenille Shockey
Visual Effects: Jack Kosoyan, Levon Kosoyan
Cinematography: Edd Lukas
Score: Nathan Vann Walton
Editing: Frederick Wardell
Studios: Enderby Entertainment, Tony-Seven Films
Distributors: Viva Pictures, Uncork’d Entertainment, 4Digital Media
Stars: Rileigh Chalmers, Luke Dodds, Johnny Hawkes, Chalie Howes, Andrew MacFarlane, Angel McCord, Katrina Mydske, Chelsey Reist, Ed Holden, James Tyce, Stephanie Van Dyck, Heath Whitelock

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Don Covay No Tell Motel

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Motels have been always been places to give a decidedly large berth. I guess old Norm Bates is the chief culprit, the cross-dressing peeping tom blatantly disregarded his position of trust by whacking off over Janet Leigh as she washed herself down like any other naked woman from her generation…with utter sinlessness. What with his lecherous lips up against the peep-hole and Paulie the Penis waiting in the wings, showers too became less than secure havens. Then in 1983, when all-American families were beginning to feel at ease once more in these roadhouses, he was at it again, Meg Tilly this time falling foul of his roving eye. Consequently the family run inn saw something of a downturn in profits around about the same time.

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There are so few of these establishments left in existence now, large corporations run by ‘the man’ have replaced the intimate touch with something far more soulless and generic, and many of these motels have long since been forced into closure. More recently, James Mangold’s Identity and Nimród Antal’s Vacancy have centered around these run down American institutions and neither have exactly drummed up business. Enter actor and first time director Brett Donowho, who brings us another fiendish lodge to avoid like the plague in the form of the relinquished Round The Bend Motel.

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No Tell Motel tells the tall tale of five bickering buddies whose RV turns over, forcing them to take refuge in the ‘sanctuary’ in question. Ten minutes in, a churlish grin appears on our faces as we know the scoop already and are aware exactly what the hors d’oeuvre will be. At this juncture, we feel justified in tagging along as the quintet are not the usual cannon fodder, appearing genuinely multifaceted and compelling. Donowho seems to be setting up rather well and the threat the kids will soon face is eerily hinted at in a generally upstanding first act.

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Then something changes. Or maybe it doesn’t? Maybe that’s where things go awry. Like unrequested cramp during masturbation, it kind of seizes up and leaves you three steps from heaven. The once well-staged tension begins to grate some, as Donowho flat refuses to show his hand. It starts to dawn on us that we aren’t going to be needing those comfort blankets after all and opportunity after opportunity simply drift on by like deadwood. I may really be twisting the blade on this point and I’d imagine any interest y’all did have is likely dissipating fast, but it just feels so wasteful as he was doing many things correctly up to then.

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The zinger trading ‘friends’ suddenly show an unnatural lack of empathy towards each other, hardly even reacting as the first of their group falls foul and feeling outright disconnected. Thankfully another dynamic comes into play as it becomes clear that each harbors their own dark secret and all are inexplicably linked to the motel. Angel McCord’s self-harming loner Corey is perhaps the most fascinating of the characters and her story ends entirely unsatisfactorily, again reeking of missed opportunities to make best of an atmospheric ‘hole-in-the-floor’ scenario. Meanwhile apparitions continue going about their daily business and we begin to feel desensitized to their presence.

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There are dimly lit interiors aplenty and this is all well and good but each death ends up anti-climactic in the extreme and there is no get out of jail free grue card to play here. It’s almost bloodless, shy of one or two practical effects, and everything is invested into raising your blood pressure. That is No Tell Motel‘s most lavish error, for all the promise it never really gets to the boil. 84 minutes pass effortlessly enough, where our stay could and should have been that much more disheartening.

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I feel I have been a tad severe on No Tell Motel. Despite being underwhelmed, it is a reasonably well-played chiller and this will be reflected in its overall score. However what needles me most is that it truly could’ve been elevated. For all the perceptive characterization and slow-burning suspense it just seems a little too content to peter out, leaving something of a vacancy behind it.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Dread Factor:  2/5

For the Dreadheads: Creaking floorboards and cacophonous clankings aside, there isn’t too much to chill the crimson. Insular confines are squandered, the hole-in-the-floor being the chief offender. It isn’t without its neck-hair moments, but they are too ultimately few and far between.

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