This microbudget horror, begins with a captivating setup, as we find Naomi (Yumiko Shaku), sat slumped in the hallway of a nameless hotel, choking with pain. In between spasms, coughs and wracking sobs, she heaves her pregnant body down the seemingly endless hallway, filled with similarly afflicted other victims. It’s a dingy, moody, tense, and claustrophobic opening, inviting questions aplenty, only then to flash back to earlier, where the story begins to spin out the several hours leading to this point, and the other characters in play.
The story of Hall centres around the stories of two women; the aforementioned Naomi, who is fleeing a controlling husband, choosing to raise her child in the new world. The other is Val (Carolina Bartczak), a battered and belittled housewife, planning to take her daughter Kelly (Bailey Thain), and make a break from her abusive husband Branden (Mark Gibson) once he’s asleep. In this midst of this bleak blizzard-swept night, a deadly disease begins to manifest throughout the hotel, and before long events have reached the opening moment. The question become who, if anyone, will get out alive?
The flaw in Hall is that it begins from a place of such story potential that it ends up being let down by the limitations of its budget, ambition and runtime. The stories of Val and Naomi feel unbalanced. The film continually centres on Naomi, but lends far greater screen time to Val and her family. Moreover, there are some staff and other guests briefly seen, but they play little or no active roles in the story beyond fleeting glimpses, making the whole feel very small.
Despite this, the meat of the film’s story following Val and Branden’s broken marriage is portrayed with surprising subtlety and skill. Bartczak and Gibson play off each other brilliantly, with each coming across as real people rather than stereotypes. Gibson especially is surprising, as Branden could easily have been made cartoonish. Instead he feels like a flawed and manipulative person, but with moments of doubt and fear mixed in. There is also a brief but fun cameo from modern B-movie and horror property regular Julian Richings, as a sinister hotel guest that is delightfully over the top.
Bizarrely the film that Hall feels most like is Puppet Master: the Littlest Reich, a film which made far better use of the hotel setting, while also genuinely providing a fun story that built up into a spiral of silliness and gore. Hall, on the other hand, starts to wane when events begin to lost coherence in the second half, including bizarre sequences of hallucinations, and far too many unanswered questions.
It’s certainly not a bad film, but for a movie that drops the audience into things with such a great opening, it’s a series of diminishing returns as it’s clear they either ran out of ideas, time or budget before they got to the end.
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