Fantasia 2021 Review: HOTEL POSEIDON, A Dantean Journey Through One Man's Personal Hell
Pallid days stretch infinitely into chaotic nights at the Hotel Poseidon, a rundown inn overseen by a rundown innkeeper named Dave (Tom Vermeir). He's just inherited the place and one gets the impression that it is not exactly the kind of boon one hopes for to operate as a salve for grief of losing a loved one. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Hotel Poseidon seems to be decomposing before our very eyes as we follow Dave through his daily routine; attending to what few guests he gets, fending off crazy ideas for an in-house discotheque, taking care of his ill -- wait, scratch that -- dead aunt, and trying desperately to forget what a miserable life he leads before starting all over again the next day. It's exhausting.
Less of a single continuous narrative, writer/director Stef Lernous' absolutely unique debut feature is more of an exploration of moral and physical decay through the eyes of a man just trying to keep it together. As Dave wanders from one minor catastrophe to the next, he grows increasingly hopeless that he'll be able to do anything to fix any of it, eventually capitulating to the overwhelming existential dread by getting up and doing it all over again the next day.
Well, if what has been explained above sounds painful to watch, honestly, you're probably correct in that assumption. Hotel Poseidon is most definitely not for everyone. It's a woesome journey through a kind of dystopia out-of-time, utterly abstract and outré on every surface level, but surprisingly relatable to those who may have suffered from clinical depression as a visual and aural expression of the experience of plodding through endless days without light. Or, perhaps if you're just a fan of films for whom bringing joy isn't the primary goal, you'll have plenty to sink your teeth into as you suffer along with Dave as he drifts through his Dantean nightmare.
Beyond the "what" of Hotel Poseidon and its impressionistic plot, it is the "how" of the film that truly deserves bearing witness. Lernous and his technical crew have created something of a grime-core masterpiece in Hotel Poseidon, there is not a surface -- manufactured or human -- that isn't caked in multiple layers of visible neglect and sludge. But even those layers appear to be meticulously designed to evoke exacting notes of disgust in the viewer and the characters.
From the opening title sequence, in which Geert Verstraete's camera circles the lobby and its mountains of detritus to reveal the film's title emerging from the refuse, straight through to a hellish sequence in the above-mentioned glorified hotel dive bar, the film seems to be attempting to challenge the beauty of films like 2001, Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void, and yes, even the sultan of strange, David Lynch. And for the most part, it works.
To say that there's something unsettling about Hotel Poseidon would be a remarkable understatement. In fact, everything about Hotel Poseidon is unsettling, and by design -- by immaculate, impeccable, excruciatingly unpleasant design. For a film that has truly not a single element of what most would consider cinematic horror, Hotel Poseison is one of the most skin-crawling experiences of the year. You probably already know if that's your bag, and if it is, you're going to love your stay in this hotel at the end of existence.
- Stefan Lernous
- Stefan Lernous
- Tom Vermeir
- Ruth Becquart
- Anneke Sluiters