Inn of the Damned (1975)

Surprised to find this was also released in the US, and I got the American art from Allmovie (whose review has trouble with Australian geography; “the tiny Outback town of Gippsland”?). I only recently realised this actually started life as another episode of Terry Bourke’s Fright along with Night of Fear. However, where that had already been filmed before the ABC told him to piss off and take his horrible idea for a TV series with him, this one hadn’t even been started, and where NoF was left unpadded for cinema release, Bourke clearly felt his idea for Inn of the Damned needed bulking up, and thus it was bulked up. And, alas, not very well either; I found the film interesting if not totally successful when I first saw it years ago, but on this revisit the cracks are somewhat more noticeable. The titular inn is one in “the tiny Outback town of Gippsland” (honestly) run by two old German immigrants, and people who stay there have a tendency to never leave again. Attempted shades of Psycho, obviously, if the latter had been a western set in rural Australia in 1896. The film gets categorised as horror, which designation I’ve never been sure I really agree with; “Gothic”, yes, there’s that aspect, but I’m not satisfied with the horror tag. Obviously the whole thing has potential, but that potential is squandered some by slack pacing and too much padding out (it’d be a good hour-long piece), and the whole thing frankly isn’t helped by the overdone music. Shelved for nearly two years after completion, by the time it came out we’d had Picnic at Hanging Rock pointing the way forward to the sort of “quality” cinema Australia “should” be making; now Bourke’s film looks like it sits at some odd crossroads of genre and arthouse without inhabiting either sphere comfortably, an interesting but not really successful at genre hybrid.

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